Defending Adele (As If She Needs Help From Me)

March 9, 2011

It’s a good thing I downloaded Adele’s sophomore album “21.” Had I purchased the compact disc, there’s a good chance I would’ve worn it out by now.

You’ve heard Adele. She’s the 22-year-old British songbird who’s been performing on all the late night talk shows and getting tons of airplay with her finger-wagging single, “Rolling in the Deep.” You might also recognize her as the redhead with the curvy silhouette, not unlike “Mad Men” star Christina Hendricks. She owns the pop world right now, and if you give a lick about bona fide artistry, you should celebrate her success.

AdelePop music has long been over-saturated by babes belting silly, overproduced tunes that inexplicably consume the airwaves. Rihanna, Katy Perry, Ke$ha – when was the last time you heard something from any of them and thought, “Wow – that’s special?” Meanwhile, Adele has earned a huge following with her soaring vocals, sassy lyrics and the swagger of a young Aretha Franklin.

Adele’s an attractive young woman, but you won’t see her scantily clad on the cover of Maxim like those aforementioned hacks. However, you CAN find her atop the sales charts. Sex sells, but talent apparently sells more. “21” debuted at No. 1 on the U.S. charts by selling 352,000 copies in its first week, drubbing recent releases by her peers, including:

  • Rihanna’s “Loud,” which debuted at No. 3 by selling 207,000 copies
  • Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream,” which debuted at No. 1 by selling 192,000 copies
  • Ke$ha’s “Cannibal,” which debuted at No. 15 by selling 74,000 copies

Image isn’t everything in music, and that’s why Adele’s breakthrough matters. These days, the music industry can no longer afford to bank on long shots and underdogs, so instead, record labels invest in assembly-line pop stars with good voices and better looks, leaving the rest to songwriting teams and super-producers. Money is poured into the marketing and management of mediocre talent, and after a few years, those artists are wrung dry and discarded for newer, younger talent. This is how the Rihannas, Katy Perrys and Ke$has of the world find work.

Adele blows that model to bits. Not only is “21” the best new album I’ve heard in a long time, but it’s also the music industry’s biggest commercial success so far in 2011.

What a sweet aberration. Music fans rejoice!