Who Is Adele?
Adele is a British singer-songwriter who has sold millions of albums worldwide and won a total of 15 Grammys as well as an Oscar. Adele’s first two albums, 19 and 21, earned her critical praise and a level of commercial success unsurpassed among her peers. After becoming a mom in 2012, Adele returned to the charts with the ballad "Hello" in 2015, the lead single from what was dubbed her comeback album 25. In 2017, she won five Grammys for her work on 25, including album, record and song of the year.
Early Life, Education and Influences
Adele Laurie Blue Adkins was born on May 5, 1988, in North London, England. Adele was the only child of Penny Adkins, an "arty mom" who was just 18 at the time of her birth, and a Welsh father, Mark Evans, who left the family when Adele was only four years old.
Evans remained in contact with his daughter up until her teen years, when his problems with alcohol and increasing estrangement from his daughter caused their relationship to deteriorate. By contrast, Adele grew close to her mom, who encouraged her young daughter "to explore, and not to stick with one thing."
Early on, Adele developed a passion for music. She gravitated toward the songs of Lauryn Hill, Mary J. Blige and Destiny's Child. But her true, eye-opening moment came when she was 15 and she happened upon a collection of Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald records at a local shop.
“There was no musical heritage in our family,” Adele told The Telegraph in a 2008 interview. "Chart music was all I ever knew. So when I listened to the Ettas and the Ellas, it sounds so cheesy, but it was like an awakening. I was like, oh, right, some people have proper longevity and are legends. I was so inspired that as a 15-year-old I was listening to music that had been made in the '40s."
While clearly bright, Adele wasn't oriented towards traditional classroom settings. Instead, her mother enrolled her in the BRIT School for Performing Arts & Technology, which counts Amy Winehouse as an alum.
While at school, Adele cut a three-track demo for a class project that was eventually posted on her MySpace page. When executives at XL Recordings heard the tracks, they contacted the singer and, in November 2006, just four months after Adele had graduated school, signed her to a record deal.
Adele's debut album, 19, which is named for the singer's age when she began recording the project, went on sale in early 2008. Led by two popular lead singles, "Hometown Glory" and "Chasing Pavements," the record rocketed Adele to fame.
Released in the United States through Columbia Records, 19 resonated with American audiences, much as it had with British music fans. Adele cemented her commercial success with an appearance in October 2008 on Saturday Night Live. At the taping of the show, the album was ranked No. 40 on iTunes. Less than 24 hours later, it was No. 1.
Adele’s much-anticipated follow-up album, 21, again named for her age at the time of recording, did not disappoint upon its release in early 2011. Tapping even deeper into Adele's appreciation for classic American R&B and jazz, the record was a monster hit, selling 352,000 copies within its first week.
Anchored by hits like "Rolling in the Deep" and "Someone Like You," 21 placed Adele in rarified air. In February 2011, she found herself with two Top 5 singles and a pair of Top 5 albums in the same week, becoming the only artist besides the Beatles and 50 Cent to achieve that milestone. And with 21 staying at No. 1 for 11 weeks, Adele also broke the solo female artist record previously held by Madonna's Immaculate Collection for consecutive weeks atop the album charts. 21 went on to sell more than 30 million copies worldwide.
On October 22, 2015, Adele announced that she would release her third album, 25, in November. She posted 25's cover on Instagram, and said of her first full-length studio project in several years: "My last record was a break-up record, and if I had to label this one, I would call it a make-up record. Making up for lost time. Making up for everything I ever did and never did. 25 is about getting to know who I've become without realizing. And I'm sorry it took so long but, you know, life happened."
25, released in November 2015, is a collection of emotional, sometimes plaintive songs looking at the ins and outs of relationships, owing much of its sound to traditional pop craft. The album went on to become an international smash hit, reaching No. 1 on iTunes in 110 countries. In the U.S., 25 sold 3.38 million copies in seven days, beating the 'NSync record of 2.42 million album copies sold in a week. Among other feats, 25 is also the only album to reach a million copies sold in the United States in 10 days.
Adele’s Top Songs
"Chasing Pavements" (2009)
The first of Adele’s songs to hit the Billboard Hot 100, “Chasing Pavements,” the lead single from her debut album, peaked at No. 21 on February 28, 2009. The singer says she wrote the song after an argument with her then-boyfriend in a London club. "It was six in the morning. There was no one chasing me, I wasn't chasing anyone. I was just running away. I remember saying to myself, 'What you're chasing is you're chasing an empty pavement,'" she said.
"Rolling in the Deep" (2011)
Adele wrote her first No. 1 Billboard single, “Rolling in the Deep,” the day after breaking up with her “first real relationship” that she later said, “made me an adult.” From her sophomore album 21, the ballad hit a chord with her listeners, spending seven weeks at the top of the Hot 100 charts beginning on May 21, 2011, as well as 19 weeks at the top spot on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary charts.
"Someone Like You" (2011)
Adele’s second song to hit No. 1 was also from the album 21, which Adele said she wrote to help her get over her breakup — reportedly with Alex Sturrock, a 31-year-old photographer. “Someone Like You” spent five weeks at the No. 1 position on the Billboard Hot 100 beginning on September 17, 2011.
"Set Fire to the Rain" (2012)
Adele’s third consecutive No. 1 song from the album 21, the power ballad “Set Fire to the Rain,” spent two weeks at the Hot 100 spot beginning February 4, 2012. During a live show, the singer explained she got inspiration for the counterintuitive lyrics when her lighter stopped working in the rain.
"Rumour Has It" (2012)
From Adele’s album 21, “Rumor Has It,” written for Adele by singer-songwriter Ryan Tedder, spent 19 weeks on the Billboard charts, hitting No. 16 on the Hot 100 on May 5, 2012.
The “Skyfall” single, recorded for the James Bond movie of the same name, hit No. 8 on the Hot 100 Billboard charts on October 20, 2012.
On October 23, 2015, Adele released the ballad "Hello," an epic track that again showcased her soaring voice over classic pop craft. The accompanying visual clip, featuring actor Tristan Wilds as the romantic interest, was directed by up-and-coming filmmaker Xavier Dolan and reportedly became the first music video to be shot with IMAX cameras.
"Hello" debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's pop charts, thus becoming Adele's fourth chart-topper and making history as the first single to receive more than 1 million downloads in a week's time. The song remained at No. 1 for multiple weeks in the United States as well.
"Send My Love (To Your New Lover)" (2016)
This track, from Adele’s 2015 album 25, was Adele’s fifth song to hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary charts. It also hit the No. 8 spot on the Hot 100 on September 24, 2016.
“When We Were Young” (2016)
Adele's second single off of 25 was "When We Were Young," a meditation on looking back and growing older. The song hit No. 14 on the Hot 100 charts on March 5, 2016.
Grammys and Awards
Adele has been nominated for 18 Grammys and won a total of 15 at the awards ceremonies in 2009, 2012 and 2017. She also received a songwriting Oscar for the James Bond track "Skyfall."
At the 2009 Grammy awards, Adele took home Best New Artist. In addition, the album earned the singer the distinction of being named the "Sound of 2008" by the BBC. That same year, she earned the Critics' Choice prize at the BRIT Awards.
In 2012, Adele swept the Grammy Awards, taking home six wins, including Album of the Year. "This record is inspired by something that is really normal and everyone's been through it—just a rubbish relationship," she said at the ceremony.
In 2013, Adele won her seventh Grammy (Best Pop Solo Performance) for her hit single "Set Fire to the Rain." That same year, the singer won a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for "Skyfall," the theme song for the 2013 James Bond film of the same name.
In 2016, Adele performed the ballad "All I Ask," co-written by Bruno Mars, on the 58th Annual Grammy Awards while dealing with technical glitches from the accompanying piano.
In 2017, Adele returned to the Grammy stage and had to stop her tribute to the late George Michael, a slowed down version of his song "Fastlove," and start over, saying: "I'm sorry — I can’t mess this up for him." She went on to sing the song to a standing ovation. She then swept the awards with five wins for her work on 25, including album, record and song of the year, as well as Best Pop Solo Performance and Best Pop Vocal Album. With her historic wins, Adele became the first artist in Grammy history to sweep the top three categories twice.
In her acceptance speech for album of the year, she acknowledged fellow nominee Beyoncé and her groundbreaking album Lemonade. “But my artist of my life is Beyoncé, and this album for me, the Lemonade album, was just so monumental," she said.
Husband and Child
In 2011, Adele met her former partner Simon Konecki, who is 13 years her senior and the founder of Life water and the charity Drop4Drop. On June 29, 2012, Adele announced on her website that she was pregnant with the couple’s first child. She spoke to People magazine about being a mother: "I really want to be a mum. I better start getting on with it!" she said. She gave birth to her son Angelo on October 19, 2012.
In early 2017, Adele was spotted wearing a wedding band, sparking marriage rumors. At her January 2017 Grammy acceptance speech, Adele appeared to confirm the rumors by calling Konecki her husband. “Grammys, I appreciate it, the Academy, I love you, my manager, my husband and my son – you’re the only reason I do it,” she said at the time. Although in interviews backstage she referred to Konecki as her “partner,” she confirmed her marriage in March during a concert in Brisbane, Australia.
In April 2019, the singer's representatives revealed that Adele and Konecki had split.
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