Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Adele proves that real talent can still rise to top of the pops

Adele is touring the UK in April 2011
Adele is touring the UK in April 2011

Adele Adkins doesn't look, speak, think or behave like a 22-year-old chart-busting popette. So what a wonderful poke in the eye to so many experts the torch-bearing singer/songwriter's spectacular worldwide success has been.

She's always had her passionate supporters but no one predicted the world record-breaking chart domination in both Europe and America Adele's been enjoying these last few weeks.

It's been a joy to watch the top brass try to get their heads around a cultural phenomenon that has broken every rule in the Pop Pickers' handbook on young, female stars. Oh, except that oft-forgotten addendum to statute 15.2: songwriting and/or vocal talent preferable, though not essential.

It's not just Adele's size which makes her an unlikely pop sensation but there's no question that the lack of a visible rib-cage led many to assume that she would struggle in the increasingly homogenised world her accessible brand of music threw her into.

On radio, there was no question that she was going to slay the masses - she had a voice halfway between Dusty Springfield and Peggy Lee and a depth of feeling that Britney could only dream of. But if she made it on to TV, how could she compete with skinny big-haired dancing doll-women like Cheryl Cole?

All she could do was stand there, in what she happily admitted was 'jewellery by Argos', and belt out a number.

It would be struggle enough in Europe, the naysayers opined, but in America, where they expect their top female pop stars to shimmy like Shakira, and prove a passion for fashion that out-gustos Gaga, she would be lost.

Then there was Ms Adkins' attitude. She came to prominence in a time of crisis in the music industry, when a financial squeeze and unknowable future meant that record companies were spreading their support increasingly thinly.

The industry fetishises rock 'n' roll rebellion but there is nothing the middlemen hate more than artists who complain about schedules, express resistance to being styled by strangers or prove themselves unmoved by threats of being dropped or sidelined.

Desperate young hopefuls are expected to do what they're told, no matter how physically or psychologically shattering.

But, right from the start, Adele proved to be the kind of unyielding stroppy teenager that managers and publicists detest. She cancelled her entire 2008 US tour because she wanted to spend more time with her boyfriend, stating: "I can't be a product; no one can do that to me. If I want three days off I tell them not to call me."

Last month she said she wasn't interested in playing any festivals this year and was criticised for her lack of commitment to her fans.

But I for one applauded her obstinacy. Armed with an album that's dominated the No. 1 slot in numerous countries, Adele proves that you don't have to give up carbohydrates, lose your mind and all your old friends to knock out fans around the world.

You just need to have the X Factor. The real one. It's enough to make Simon Cowell weep into his high-waisted cashmere - and isn't that thought alone worth the price of an Adele download?

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