Adele saved pop music.
Her voice; her direct, simple lyrics; her elegant synthesis of 50 years' worth of soul, R&B, pop and country influences -- all of these elements have combined to create one of the music industry's precious few juggernauts. The 23-year-old British songbird's sophomore album, 21, has sold 17 million copies worldwide and is closing in on the record for the number of weeks spent atop the Billboard charts ("21" has, as of press time, spent 17 consecutive19--weeks at No. 1; the reigning champ, the 1992 soundtrack to The Bodyguard, lasted 20 weeks in the top spot).
But eye-popping sales figures and stats aside, why has Adele struck such a deep chord with listeners from all walks of life?
Easy: honesty. And that voice.
That humble, genuine quality of her music, and how she presents herself as an artist, is precisely why she deserves to win every single Grammy for which she's nominated Sunday, to add to the pair of Grammys she won three years ago for her debut, 19.
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You have to really search for relatable, approachable humanity in music these days. Too much of what's pumped into heavy rotation is glittery, glossy and empty. Songs stitched together by computers fade away almost as fast as a new one can be introduced. There's nothing to hold onto. By contrast, Adele's songs -- the punchy Rolling in the Deep or the tender, tear-stained Someone Like You -- cut through the noise and hold you spellbound, pinned to your seat by the raw emotion.
Three years ago, when Adele played her only North Texas show to date, at the Granada Theater, it was evident just how special she was going to be. She was just a month removed from her first Grammy wins then, but the cliche of watching a star being born unfolded before everyone in that sold-out room. The air was charged. The music was magical. Hundreds of shows later, I can still conjure vivid memories of that performance.
And for those who haven't witnessed her mesmerizing concerts, they'll have a chance -- thankfully -- to see Adele in action Sunday on the Grammys telecast, as the vocalist takes the stage for her first live performance in nearly six months. Waylaid by throat surgery last year, Adele was forced to scrap two planned U.S. tours and sit out much of 2011. That she is making such a dramatic re-entrance befits not only the occasion, but the singer.
For all of her grounded believability, Adele also has the knack for conjuring moments of sonic and lyrical drama. Her songs walk the line between intimacy and grandeur, bombast and tenderness.
From howling "We could have had it all" during the chorus of Rolling in the Deep to practically weeping the line "Sometimes it lasts in love/But sometimes it hurts instead" in Someone Like You, Adele can modulate her keenly felt emotions without sacrificing her integrity. In a word, she's breathtaking..
So, Sunday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the woman who single-handedly brought pop music back from the brink of plastic oblivion will step up and seize the crown that is rightfully hers. It is the year of Adele, and deservedly so.
Just don't be surprised if you find yourself weeping for joy right along with her.
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