Music never dies, but if Adele makes another record, there is going to be a murder. Probably of me, by me, because I can’t take it any longer. Right now, there is no escaping her. In 2015, 25 was the fastest-selling album, ever, on both sides of the Atlantic. Her single ‘Hello’ was downloaded a million times in a week and was the most-streamed song in Spotify’s history. Last week, despite her meltdown at the Grammys, she swept up at the Brits.
Which is stupendous news, if you, like everyone else, love Adele. But I don’t. I can’t. I won’t. I simply hate her. Or, rather, not her. But it – her music. When Coldplay was played this ubiquitously, at least no one ever admitted to being complicit. But Adele’s oeuvre, which is, if possible, even less inventive, is adored openly and by all. No one, but no one, ever complains about her. Except Jack White, who once told Rolling Stone: ‘Adele selling 20 million records? That would not have happened if Amy Winehouse was alive.’
I refuse to blame the Angel Winehouse. If Adele’s voice was like Amy’s, I’d listen to her all day, rapt. But, while Adele’s voice is perfectly pleasant, it does not rank alongside that of Edith Piaf or Sarah Vaughan. Her success can’t possibly depend upon her voice, so it must lie in the songs she writes. Fans must identify with that never-changing tale of lost love that she croons, and re-croons. But unlike ‘Back To Black’, which was a work of raw, lyrical brilliance – very clearly about an actual love affair, with Blake Fielder fingered, almost immediately, as the unwitting cause of it all – no one can identify the man who made Adele so sore.
When the Guardian last asked who he was, she answered: ‘Who cares? Nobody famous, just old boyfriends. I don’t date celebrities. I ain’t f****** Taylor Swift, dyouknowhatImean?’ But however easy it is to dismiss Taylor Swift, as flimsy, ephemeral and attention-seeking, the lyrics Swift comes up with obviously relate to her life as she’s lived it. Swift is embarrassed and defiant and, ultimately, victorious – and it’s real. If Adele really did have her heart broken by a man, the British press would have surely winkled him out by now. For the British press is still very, very good at winkling things out no one wants us to know. Long ago, I came to the conclusion there wasn’t any such boyfriend. And if Adele wants to refute that, she can say so.
Not that there’s anything wrong with inventing romantic heroes. The sexiest men in literature were made up by virgins. But Heathcliff and Darcy and Rochester have endured, because you can feel there was some fevered circumstance that spawned them; that’s why they fascinate and endure. But this man Adele warbles on about, far from seeming real, doesn’t even make sense. Take the song that introduced him, with the chorus of ‘Never mind, I’ll find someone like you.’ What woman ever broke up with a man to a shrug of the shoulders?
Either you’re still madly in love with your ex – in which case you’re still so high off his pheromones that you’re damned sure there could never be another man to match him. Or you’re so devastated at his leaving that you could fry his gizzard and eat it for tea. But Adele has never written a song about wanting to fry anyone’s gizzard for tea. Post 21, she achieves fame, claims not to like it, gets married, has a baby, relishes the lifestyle of a 1950s housewife, and pens another album in exactly the same vein as the last one. There is no progression between each mundane tune. ‘Hello’, if the video is to be believed, is a haunting ballad about losing mobile phone reception.
But though Adele went to the Brit school, alongside – yes, Amy, but also every other pop star of recent times – no one ever accuses Adele of being manufactured and made up like Jessie J or Katie Melua. Even though, as time wears on, she only becomes duller and less imaginative. Take the album titles, 19, 21 and 25. Ostensibly, they flag up the age she was when she produced them, but is this because she’s too lazy to come up with a title that might actually mean something, or a deliberate ploy to remind us she’s not, actually, middle-aged?
To date, the best thing about Adele has been her personality, her continuous swearing and the fact that she was a bit on the fat side and didn’t give a fuck about it. She was glorious. But, now, she appears to be toning down even that. On Instagram she recently posted a selfie of herself in agony at the gym. She was slimming down for her tour and has given up not just ‘alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine’ but, apparently, ‘spicy, citrusy and tangy foods.’
Pretty soon she’ll be living off pap as bland as her music. Pretty soon, there will be nothing extraordinary about her at all. Except, of course, for the extraordinary success of her vapid, deathless ballads.