Teen soul siren Adele has gone from Brit School wannabe to Brit Awards isbe on the strength of just two singles. Now, she tells Time Out, she just has to stay out of the celeb mags
Even before Time Out subscriber Adele Laurie Blue Adkins officially became the most hotly tipped artist since, um, Andrew WK, internet chatter about this surprisingly bolshy 19-year-old was deafening. Then, days before victory in BBC online’s annual Sound Of 2008 poll of most-likely-to-sell-a-shedload, the Tottenham-born nu-chanteuse hit top of the blogs when blue-haired trash addict Perez Hilton – him with an unhealthy obsession with camel toes – blogged her up on perezhilton.com on New Year’s Eve. Compared to victory in the BBC poll, a Brit Award (yes, already) for being, well, promising, and even Kanye West’s blogged praise, it’s Hilton’s support that could make the difference.
‘It’s frightening how in control he is,’ says Adele in her ‘Am I bovvered?’ accent. ‘The industry over there knew about me but none of the public did. But ’cos he put my name on his site, I’ve got to go over now. I wasn’t supposed to be going until May.’
If the other plaudits provide Adele, a self-styled ‘soul singer of pop songs’, with credibility, then Hilton’s fandom will help her to cross over from the blogs and broadsheets into The Sun and her beloved celeb magazines. A proud reader of Heat, Closer, Star and Bizarre – you name them, she’s tutted over their featured fashion disasters – it’s not something that fazes the Ella- and Winehouse-inspired teen. She’s after everybody’s love, not just the blessing of indie kids loyal to XL, the label who signed her in November 2006 when she had just a baby’s handful of songs. And anyway, indie fans horrified by success have already started attacking her on those pillars of democracy, internet messageboards. These people apparently dislike her for a) being not slim, b) ripping off Amy Winehouse, and c) going by just her first name. How very dare she? Adele tells us that one person even wrote that she should ‘just fuck off and die’.
‘I read them at the beginning,’ she says, ‘but then there were a few nasty ones and I thought: I’m not going to bother with them any more. I don’t mind them that much, though. It’s normal, innit? I go on YouTube and leave nasty things on there. If I was a really nice person and was, like, “Let’s just live in harmony”, I’d be upset. But I can be a bitch as well. I can be horrible. I’m a teenager, I always cuss everyone.’
Showing a beef-starting potential that could keep us entertained in 2008, it transpires that Sienna Miller is one such victim of her internet abuse (‘She’s stunningly beautiful, but what does she do?’). But with her debut album, ‘19’, out on Monday, she won’t have time for such nonsense any longer. Instead she’ll have to fend off 1,001 questions about her fellow Brit School alumnus (and Perez Hilton’s other favourite), Amy Winehouse. Do you hate her? Are you copying her? Have you been rifling through her dustbin for discarded songs? But instead of the tried and tested ‘There’s room for both of us’ rebuttals, Adele makes it clear that she’s a big fan and is flattered by the comparison. Her only worry, she says, is that ‘people might start thinking I’ve made a Motown record and that I’m copying Amy. But I’m not.’
It’s true that there’s a vague similarity, but the two singers’ styles are of different vintages. Even though Mark ‘I’ve got the Stax horn’ Ronson swung by to produce a song on ‘19’, Adele opts for a folkier, naive approach, with ‘Daydreamer’ and ‘Crazy For Love’ in particular informed by ’60s white soul lady and Greenwich Village regular Karen Dalton (‘I love her guitar playing. She leaves space in her songs, which is what I do ’cos I can’t play the guitar’). Then there’s the Eva Cassidy-goes-northern-soul stylings and Sugababes-tinged R&B of stellar tracks ‘Best For Last’, ‘Cold Shoulder’ and ‘Right As Rain’. Quite a mix for an avowed Will Young nut. But anybody believing the hype and expecting the new Winehouse will be disappointed; this young talent hasn’t quite got that intensity. Yet.
And how about claims that Adele and Sound Of 2008 runner-up Duffy are just the next in a line of old-school, soulful torch singers signed up to cash in on, and fill the vacuum left by, the increasingly wobbly Wino?
‘Rubbish!’ says Adele. ‘When I got signed the industry was looking for a new Lily Allen, not the new Amy Winehouse. For a while, when Kate Nash took off, the press was even saying that I was the new Kate Nash, until they heard my first single [the limited-edition ‘Hometown Glory’] and they were like, “Sorry, it’s actually Amy Winehouse you’re like.” ’
Moving swiftly on and leaving our time together very nearly Duffy-free – although Adele tells us that she’s half-Welsh herself – the rising starlet is only just starting to think about how the public (ie the people who actually matter) will react to her. It’s amazing that after all the hyperbole and column inches, Adele is only just releasing second single ‘Chasing Pavements’. With the single looking like going Top Five at the time of going to press, it looks like Adele is winning them over. But she admits to doubting herself.
‘If I flop and I’ve given it all that,’ she says, providing the obligatory hand movements, ‘I’m going to get slated, people saying "You were wrong". But I wasn’t wrong, you lot [the press] were. I was worried before the release of “Chasing Pavements” that I wouldn’t connect with the public. I’ve been tipped by the industry and that’s flattering but, ultimately, they’re not going to buy my records or pay for tickets. It’s the public I need to stick by me. If I’m stupid and fuck up, they’ll be, like, “I don’t care, I love her.” ’
If Adele, who says she wants to be remembered for writing love songs (‘I bet my love is more intense than any 30-year-old’s’), does fuck up, blowing her advance and royalties on crystal meth and Baileys, at least she’ll star in those celebrity magazines she currently gloats over. For now, though, soul and mind intact, she’s adamant not to be papped roly-polying out of any clubs.
‘I drink at home. I get steamingly drunk in my bedroom and pass out on my bed – rather than a club sofa,’ she laughs. Without Adele’s camel toe to dissect, Perez Hilton will think that’s sooo sad.
Adele plays UCL Bloomsbury Theatre on Jan 29; Adele’s ‘19’ (XL) is out out on Jan 28.
- Add your comment to this feature