Adele owned 2011. The kicky, 23-year-old British singer released her second album, the breakup requiem "21," in February, and in barely 11 months, she has already sold more copies than any artist in the world, currently inching toward 13 million globally. But it wasn't just heartbreak that made her popular. In contemporary music, Adele is one of a kind, a woman who thrives off no bells and whistles, just pure personality and talent (and the ability to make the toughest curmudgeon cry).
Despite it all, Adele has been living in exile, of sorts. After having surgery to remove a benign polyp from her throat, she was not allowed to speak for weeks, never mind sing -- and, as readers of her blog know, she wasn't quite feeling it. Billboard.com's Julianne Escobedo Shepherd emailed her a few days before she was nominated for six Grammys (she expects to be vocally recovered by the time they are awarded) to discuss her latest live DVD, her astronomical success and, naturally, true love.
In your "Adele: Live at the Royal Albert Hall" DVD/CD performance, you have a dedication to Amy Winehouse. Obviously people have compared you, since you're both white British singers with soul; but do you feel any affinity with her beyond that?
I loved her for the same reasons everyone else did -- firstly, she was a remarkable singer, but she was a believable and relatable artist, feisty but timid and fun but tragic -- normal! She created herself. That's what inspired me. . . . She was a huge artist who was always a bigger fan. That's why I gravitated toward her and listened when she sang and spoke . . . Or snarled!
You've had a remarkable year. Yet you seem to go about your career almost as an indie artist, and by all accounts don't seem to have changed your personality. What keeps you grounded . . . and real?
When it comes to staying myself -- my career isn't my life, it doesn't come home with me. So it's a piece . . . staying grounded and not being changed by it. The same things I've always liked still satisfy me. My team's the same, and my group of friends are the same.
To that end, much has been made about how you are so real and uncontrived compared to a lot of other pop stars. Did you always feel supported in your decision to just be yourself?
I'm not sure. I'm never self-conscious and never have been. The thought of changing yourself or toning yourself down or up for that matter, to please someone else seems ridiculous to me.
What do you envision for your future, your next couple of years?
I'm really looking forward to some time to do nothing. I imagine I'll be 25 or 26 by the time my next record comes out, as I haven't even thought about my third record yet. I'm just gonna lay some concrete, set up home and just "be" for a bit. I'll disappear and come back with a record when it's good enough. There will be no new music until it's good enough and until I'm ready.
Have you begun writing songs for the next album?
It's been a long year. Have you found love again?
It's been the most erratic year. It's been brilliant and exciting and emotional. Professionally, it's been a year that will define my life forever. . . . Not having someone to share all this with made me miserable at times, to be honest. I wanted nothing more than to be in love and be loved back. That was until I remembered I was sharing it with millions and millions and millions of people! I haven't been ready to be in love again since summer 2009 . . . until now. And I hadn't met anyone along the way who has changed that.
How was your vocal surgery? How much longer until you can sing again?
The surgery couldn't have gone better. But because I was singing with damaged vocal cords for three or four months and because of the surgery and because of the silence after the surgery, I now have to build myself back up vocally. It's gonna be a lot easier for me to sing now. And mentally I won't be worried about my voice onstage anymore. So I have to get used to that. That'll take most of January, so February I'll be singing properly!