We probably should have been ready for it. Whenever Adele releases a new song, suddenly almost every girl in our youth groups will be listening to it non-stop! Youth leaders can become a hero to the girls in their groups by understanding who Adele is, what she sings about, and why she is so popular.
Who She Is
Adele Adkins knew that she loved music from a very early age but she didn’t plan to pursue singing as a career. She went to the BRIT School for Performing Arts & Technology, to learn how to launch other people’s careers. But, she had been singing all her life. Inspired by artists ranging from Etta James to the Spice Girls to Pink, she recorded a demo that a friend posted on MySpace. British record label, XL Recordings, signed her to a record deal. In the United States, Columbia Records liked what they saw and heard enough to sign her and begin promoting her debut album, 19, named after the age she was when she wrote and recorded it. It was a big hit in the UK but it was a performance on Saturday Night Live that truly launched her US career. From there, she has never looked back. Her next album, 21, became the kind of record that is not supposed to exist in the twenty-first century. As of 2015, it has sold in excess of 30 million copies worldwide. What made this even more extraordinary is that she was unable to tour to support the record, due to vocal issues. It sold simply on the strength of her universally relatable lyrics and that hurricane of a voice. Her third album, 25, releases in November.
What Her Messages Are
What makes Adele’s success so astounding is that she eschews almost every notion of what is supposed to make a modern pop star. In an age of constant over-sharing on social media, she chooses to retain an air of mystique. In an era where many singers are more reliant on what they wear (or don’t wear) and any other number of gimmicks, she lets her music speak for her. Her lyrics almost always relate to love, heartbreak and loss, but are never crass or tawdry. Take some of her biggest hits as examples. “Rolling In The Deep” is filled with scorn for an ex who blew their relationship apart but she remains triumphant, knowing she will survive this loss. In the heartbreaking “Someone Like You”, she laments losing the love of her life but reminds herself, through her tears, that she will eventually find someone who will treat her better. “Hello” finds her on the other side of a failed relationship, explaining how she tried to make things right and mend the brokenness of a relationship, even though the song’s subject is uninterested in such closure. Sure, she has a flair for the dramatic, but that’s part of what makes every song so relatable.
What Youthworkers Need2Know
Youth leaders, especially guys, can learn a thing or two from Adele about relating to girls. Relationships, whether romantic or not, are often the most important things in a teenaged girl’s world. When they shift or are in peril, teenagers often feel that those relationships are the only thing that matters. Adele understands that and puts those feelings to music. Her songs are like journal entries, set to music. Girls sense that they are listening to a friend sing to them, instead of a global superstar.
Adele is the rare artist who transcends age and taste. When she releases new music, it’s an event. If youth leaders treat it as such too, you will have an incredible opportunity to open up discussion with your students about loss, heartbreak, and the intricacies of relationships. There are few better modern artists to use as a springboard for these topics, especially because Adele seems to grow, both personally and musically, with each new album.