Adele: ‘I want to make something. I don’t want to be the face of anything.’

adele observer

I love Adele. That’s no secret. But I hate that every single magazine just uses headshots of Adele for their covers. It’s a long-established editorial “solution” for when your cover subject is larger than a size 2: don’t show anything below her shoulders. Anyway, Adele covered and guest-edited the most recent issue of The Observer, which was out last Sunday. I didn’t cover it sooner because only one quote was released from the piece – this is Adele on fame/celebrity: “It’s very easy to give in to being famous. Because it’s charming. It’s powerful. It draws you in. Really, it’s harder work resisting it. But after a while I just refused to accept a life that was not real.” Sure. Adele also has a new interview with the New York Times, which you can read here. We are now just ONE WEEK away from the release of her new album. I can’t wait!

She cries while singing her songs sometimes: “In order for me to feel confident with one of my songs it has to really move me. That’s how I know that I’ve written a good song for myself — it’s when I start crying. It’s when I just break out in [expletive] tears in the vocal booth or in the studio, and I’ll need a moment to myself.”

She didn’t know if anyone wanted her to come back: “I was like, ‘Oh, no, I’ve missed my window. Oh, no, it’s too late. The comeback’s gone. No one cares.’”

The success of the last album, 21: “I was scared. It got so out of control, the last album. I was a bit frightened for a while to step back into it… I didn’t think I had it in me to write another record. I didn’t know if I should. Because of how successful ‘21’ was, I thought, ‘Maybe everyone’s happy with that being the last thing from me. Maybe I should bow out on a high.’ As time went on, I realized I had no choice. I have to write more music for myself, and there’s nothing else I want to do.”

She used to wallow in sadness: “I just used to let myself drown. If I was sad, if I was confused — which I would say were the running themes for most of my records so far — I’d just go with it. I’d let myself fall apart, and I’d sit in darkness, and I’d feel sorry for myself, and I wouldn’t accept any help to get out of it, in terms of going out with my friends to cheer me up, or staying busier. No! I loved the drama of it all. How I felt when I wrote ‘21,’ I wouldn’t want to feel again. It was horrible. I was miserable, I was lonely, I was sad, I was angry, I was bitter. I thought I was going to be single for the rest of my life. I thought I was never going to love again. It’s not worth it…. Well, it was worth it, because, obviously, of what’s gone on. But I’m not willing to feel like that to write a song again. I’m not.”

What’s changed for her: “I haven’t got time to fall apart. I’m the backbone for my kid, and I want to be there for him. And I want to be there for my boyfriend as well, and I don’t want to bring them down with me for my art.”

She doesn’t want to be famous for the sake of being famous: “If I wanted to just be famous, like be a celebrity, then I wouldn’t do music, because everything else I’ve been offered would probably make me more famous than I am just with my music. Commercials, being the face of brands, nail varnishes, shoes, bags, fashion lines, beauty ranges, hair products, being in movies, being the face of a car, designing watches, food ranges, buildings, airlines, book deals. I’ve been offered everything. And I don’t want to water myself down. I want to do one thing. I want to make something. I don’t want to be the face of anything.”

[From The NYT]

That last quote is fascinating, isn’t it? That’s why I brought up the Observer quote at the beginning, which made me roll my eyes at Adele a little bit the first time I read it, but I think I understand what she means now. It would be “easy” for her to fall into the same kind of modern pop-star path, where stardom is barely about music and more about branding, endorsements, advertisements and anything else. It’s remarkable that someone so young had the tenacity and self-awareness to turn all of it down and just say “No, my focus is on making music.”

This NYT also has a great quote from Adele’s friend and collaborator Ryan Tedder about how many songs Adele gave away when making this album. Tedder said: “The girl has probably thrown away easily 20 hits off of ‘25’ that will at some point wander away, maybe into other artists’ hands.” It’s true. Sia already has a hit single (“Alive”) from a collaboration with Adele that was intended for Adele’s album. I would very much like to hear The Rejected Songs From 25: The Album.

Here’s Adele’s performance of “Hello” at the NRJ Awards.

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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31 Responses to “Adele: ‘I want to make something. I don’t want to be the face of anything.’”

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  1. Tiffany says:

    Pre order on Amazon. To arrive on 11/20 (Thanks Amazon Prime).

    *sits at desk and claps hands with glee*

  2. lower-case deb says:

    the NRJ video’s framing of the light thing behind her head made it look like she has a halo. maybe one day we will hear her sing a gospel tune and everyone will write: Let us listen to the Gospel of Adele with this NRJ type lighting.

    just one week away before i willingly let Adele take me to church
    (i hope i’m using this idom correctly. i have just learned another young person’s lingo: “take (somebody) to church” doesn’t literally mean taking someone to an actual church? but why that idiom? anything to do with “preaching to the choir”)

    • Lrm says:

      Regarding taking somebody to church that to me is about something giving you a spiritual experience. It’s tongue in cheek but somewhat literal- something so good it brought you closer to god. A religious experience. Could be food or sex or music. Preaching to the choir is when your audience or person you are talking too already shares your view. The choir doesn’t need to be preached to because they’re already on board, you know? They’ve already signed on. Sometimes we find ourselves passionate about something and compelled to share it though often especially political views, we are hanging out with people who a already share our view. So it’s preaching to the choir. At least in the USA. Seems like people in other countries don’t separate themselves as rigidly by belief system. Hahaha.

      • lower-case deb says:

        @LRM, thank you so much for the explanation. ah i now understand now. so it has something to do with the music so great its almost a religious experience.

        i am glad to learn new things here on CB!

  3. word says:

    Yeah It’s bullshit how they never use full body shots of her. We all know her size, we have seen her in videos, so what’s the big deal/secret? It’s because they would heavily photoshop her body and then get hell for it (rightfully so). When will the world ever change? I like Adele because she makes good music and has an amazing voice/talent. I like her even more because she just wants to be known for her music and not her personal life.

  4. sofia says:

    I totally admire her for not giving in to branding herself and selling us anything else than her music. It shows that she is focused on the job and not on making more money and being more famous. But sometimes I guess some celebs don’t really make as much money as we imagine they do and feel the need to capitalize (I hate this word) while there’s an interest in them. How this works for them and their credibility in the long term, well, their careers do seem to get “watered down”. But some do it to reinforce their imagine and notoriety (actors and actress and their perfumes, fashion, luxury items deals) and therefore bring people to movie theaters. But even then I always respect more the ones who don’t do that sort of thing.

    • lower-case deb says:

      i think you’re on to something there with sponsorship deals and endorsement stuff.
      was just reading this article about how artists (indie mostly) who don’t sell as much albums as Adele or Taylor Swift or Beyonce.

      i think endorsements will help them a great deal.

      perhaps like sportsmen who get most of their income from sponsorship deals, some needs sponsors just to be able to get from one tournament to the next, or for decent competitive gear, etc.

      • sofia says:

        And in many areas you know you won’t get work in the future or you can’t really be sure. People won’t buy what they don’t know about and unless you have a big machine behind you (film studio/ music label) how can you compete with the big names out there?

        I hate advertising and consumerism (I have a degree in it, maybe that’s why) but I understand that our attention span is completely fragmented, there’s a lot competition for our attention (and money) and endorsements do have the power to give someone visibility that will increase the chances of getting a new audience. It’s not really about the product, is about “existing”, about people being aware that you exist. Adele is already rich and if anything gets promoted too much, so she clearly doesn’t need to engage with any of these issues.

        PS: Thanks for the article!

  5. mandy says:

    I can see why they use a head shot- her face is so beautiful!

    • Tiffany :) says:

      Exactly! I don’t know if they are trying to obscure her body so much as they are focusing on that magnificent face of hers. Her face is just breathtaking! (and I love that lip color in the cover above).

    • OTHER RENEE says:

      Exactly what I was thinking!

  6. Liz says:

    Her position regarding endorsements certainly makes her stand out among all the other big acts out now. It feels like every mainstream singer has a perfume, make up or clothing line.

  7. Wentworth Miller says:

    I get what Adel is saying. The minute she becomes “the face of…”, people start throwing expectations at her and the second she slips or doesn’t live up to somebodys “standard” of that thing, she gets torn apart.

  8. byland says:

    Yes, it’s bullshit that magazines always use closeups, as you’re right and we all do know her size – her perfectly normal size – but, man, oh, man what a face it is. Just gorgeous.

    Also, sign me up for the “rejects” album. Hopefully years down the road we’ll actually get one of those, as many artists seem to turn to them as time passes.

    • WinnieCoopersMom says:

      Yes! Have you heard the Amy Winehouse album of previously unreleased recordings she did? It’s AMAZING.

  9. LAK says:

    Some celebs are up for branding themselves via endorsements in other areas, and others are forced to do it to make money or be relevant.

    It’s amazing how celebs endorsing things was very revolutionary. Anybody who did it was considered a sell out and not a musician at all. Concert merchandising was the furthest any of them went.

    I blame the current trend of mass endorsement, to the detriment of artists’ talent on Simons Cowell & Fuller who showed the way with the Spice Girls in the 90s. The music became secondary to the endorsements.

    It seems we’ve come full circle to the non endorsement era that pre-dates the 90s.

  10. FingerBinger says:

    Adele isn’t endorsing anything now but give it a few years. She’ll be the face of something in 5 years.

    • V4Real says:

      “If I wanted to just be famous, like be a celebrity, then I wouldn’t do music, because everything else I’ve been offered would probably make me more famous than I am just with my music. Commercials, being the face of brands, nail varnishes, shoes, bags, fashion lines, beauty ranges, hair products, being in movies, being the face of a car, designing watches, food ranges, buildings, airlines, book deals. I’ve been offered everything.”

      But you wouldn’t have been offered all those things if not for your music.
      She knows she’s written a good song if it moves her and she starts crying. Let another pop artist say something like that. They would be ridiculed.

      This woman is starting to sound so full of herself.

      • Jay says:

        They would be ridiculed because the music of all the other pop stars right now = a joke. Adele makes real music, they make bubblegum garbage.

      • kri says:

        Did you catch her performance at Royal Albert Hall? She is so amazing with her audience. Watch it on YouTube if you can…she sings with her audience, talks to them so lovingly, repeatedly thanking them for coming to see her. It’s beautiful. Whether she takes endorsements or not, I don’t care. She’s for real. Her talent is awesome. And that face-well. It deserves its own reward.

      • V4Real says:

        Just because you like Adele and not other pop stars doesn’t mean they don’t make real music. Music is subjective. I think Adele music is boring. And just like people say Taylor songs are mostly about her breakups, Adele’s songs are mostly about her heartbreak.

        I will admit that Adele has a good voice and talent but that face is not beautiful to me.

      • WinnieCoopersMom says:

        @Kri – yes! I have it on DVD and have watched it probably 8-10 times. I’m obsessed. It is a treasure. She is incredible live and if I ever got to see her perform, I would have to be wearing some Depends bc I would def pee on myself.

      • Otaku Fairy says:

        That quote would sound a little pretentious if it came from someone like Katy Perry, but from Adele it doesn’t feel that way. She’s talented and seems to be all about the music. I do like some of the more pop star-types too though.

      • Shannon says:

        “Just because you like Adele and not other pop stars doesn’t mean they don’t make real music. Music is subjective.” Not true. OBJECTIVELY speaking, pop music has been proven to contain fewer words and more repetition now than at any other point in history. There have been studies done on this. I don’t think you’re getting that there’s a difference between someone like Adele, who personally hand-writes every lyric of her songs, and the completely manufactured vehicles for shilling merchandise that comprise the vast majority of top 40 billboard hits played on radio stations.

  11. lucy2 says:

    “I don’t want to water myself down. I want to do one thing.” That is truly amazing, and I admire the hell out of her for knowing that and resisting so much temptation. I won’t fault others choosing differently, but I just am so impressed with her determination.

  12. Nikki says:

    I loved the strength of her comment: it’s like, I’m not representing your product, I’ll represent myself. I love a strong woman who wants to steer her own ship, and not become a mere marketing tool at someone else’s command. I think when a woman has a very strong sense of herself, she’s far less likely to accept the many ways our culture objectifies women. Also, she’s going against the commercialization at all costs mentality of our extremely materialistic culture. I love Adele!!

  13. yoyoyo123 says:

    Does anyone else think she looks like Emily Blunt?

    • korra says:

      I could see it a little. But Rooney Mara and Emily Blunt could pass as sisters more than Adele and Blunt.

  14. Kitty says:

    Adore her. A true talent in a sea of vapid, hypersexualized cookie cutter pop stars.