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Monday, November 29, 2021

Has Adele been ‘ruined’ by Hollywood?

Asked about how she coped with the heartbreak of deciding to end her marriage, Adele talked about the “the process of arriving to yourself every single day, turning up to yourself every single day.” She described how she was “trying to move forward with intention”. And she commented on the importance of “really sitting in my feelings… Whenever I noticed how I was feeling, I would sit down and I’d sit in it.”

As well as making emotional states sound unpleasantly like the contents of a nappy, Adele’s vocabulary has all the hallmarks of someone who’s spent much of the six years since her last record “processing”. And she’s had a lot to process: as well as going through divorce and navigating the move to co-parenting her nine-year-old son, Angelo with ex-husband Simon Konecki, Adele has also had to deal with the death of her father, from whom she’d been estranged since she was three. (They reconciled shortly before he died.)

No wonder, as Adele told Rolling Stone in a recent interview, she found herself looking for consolation in “intention-setting rituals” and thorough going gym sessions. These are totally reasonable ways of negotiating painful personal experiences, but there’s no getting around the fact that they’re also very Hollywood ways of dealing with painful personal experiences. Adele’s persona is of someone who’s just like us – but inevitably, massive success means she’s becoming one of them.

There’s a possibly telling moment in a video she made for Vogue recently. The concept is perfectly Adele: she’s in a café, blindfolded, trying to identify classic British delicacies by taste. She gets the pork pie and cockles, but when she’s given a plate of chips she identifies them as “fries”. She quickly corrects herself, but it’s a small giveaway of where her heart is now: less north London, more West Coast.

This is, of course, an unavoidable consequence of the kind of spectacular fame that Adele has achieved. She isn’t just a major figure in popular culture – she’s one of the very last of the old-school pop stars. The promotion plan for 30 looks very much like a traditional album release: a single (Easy On Me, released on October 16), then a gap in which she’s undertaken various profile-raising duties (Oprah, simultaneous Vogue covers on both sides of the Atlantic, radio appearances), and eventually the full LP (30 will arrive on November 19).

Nothing so remarkable about that. Or there wouldn’t be, if this was 10 years ago. The business of pop music has changed drastically since she began her career. Now, a big album release will arrive as an overnight drop – look at how Taylor Swift delivered her new version of Red this weekend – and a months-long campaign like Adele’s, let alone such a large vinyl run, is unheard of.

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