Friday 22 September 2017

This girl's sure got the blues, and it shows

Adele's emotional second album, '21', is a record of tender, bluesy yearning, writes Barry Egan

Bob Dylan was saved in the late Seventies when he became a Born Again Christian. Twenty-two-year-old Grammy-nominated English singing sensation-cum-Brixton-raised goddess Adele recently claimed that she had saved Mr Dylan in an altogether different way. Reacting to retarded criticism of her enthralling cover of Dylan's Make You Feel My Love, Adele says she has "saved" Bob by making him a small fortune, possibly even for him, in royalties.

"Someone told me the other day they read online that I killed Bob Dylan with Make You Feel My Love. I actually think I've saved him," she said. "He's going to get £1m out of that song. He's going to get a big pay cheque at the end of the year. I reckon, with the amount it's been played on the radio and the sales of about 400,000 since it was on the X Factor, it's worth a lot to him. Maybe he'll buy me a watch or something."

Adele added contentiously, "It is his-second favourite version, after his own."

Someone dubbed Adele's new album 21 a record of "tender, countrified" yearning. It is certainly emotional music that is not easy to dismiss, even sung by one so young. (Her debut album, 19, introduced the world to her extravagant talents.) I would have said 21 (co-produced by Paul Epworth and Rick Rubin) was a record of tender, bluesy yearning.

Adele admitted recently that she was "a bit worried" about going down the blues route. "I only got exposed to blues and country music when I was in America because of my bus driver. He used to radio to all the other bus drivers, 'Can you pick all your favourite country and blues songs and send them to me?' I've got thousands and thousands of them, all sorts, Wanda Jackson, Garth Brooks, early Johnny Cash, early Dolly Parton, the Carter Family."

In 2008, the Observer said Adele possessed "a fully formed personality -- exuberant, bawdy, disarmingly honest, effortlessly funny, gasping for 'a fag', devoted to her beloved music". That out-of-kilter devotion to her music is self-evident. You don't make music this good unless you have some sort of calling or deeper connection. It is informed by a love of pop music too.

"I love love songs," she said a few years ago. "But I love pop music as well: Girls Aloud, Kylie, the Spice Girls, East 17, Mika. I'm not that into credibilit ... I mean, of course I wanna be a credible artist but you gotta have a laugh, innit? I used to be obsessed like that, I was a real indie kid, but I'd secretly go home and listen to Celine Dion. She's got proper ballads!"

The album titles 19 and now 21 refer to the ages Adele Adkins was when she recorded those songs.

"I didn't want to call this record '21' at first," she says. "I thought it was really obvious. I thought everyone would be like, 'Ooh, she ain't got much of an imagination, has she?' I was trying to come up with something else, but in the back of my mind was always '21' as a title.

"Then I listened back to '19' and read reviews from live shows, and suddenly felt that it is properly two years later, and 21 is really an official age, and I do feel like I've really become an adult. So it was really an obvious title, but I think being obvious sometimes is right, rather than trying to be clever."

Her mother was "18-and-a-half" when Adele was born, on May 5, 1988, in north London. As for her biological father, Adele told Q magazine: "I'd cut off contact with him when I was 10 or 11 ... it's just disappointing when your own blood can't keep promises."

She can recall being a five-year-old and standing -- with her mum watching her proudly -- on the table at dinner parties and singing Dreams by Gabrielle. She was an alternative soul singer even then.

At school in Tottenham Adele was "the only white kid" in her class. "I stopped noticing after a while."

But it is difficult not to notice Adele Adkins.

Adele plays the Olympia Theatre, Dublin, April 12

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