Deconstructing Adele

21 Jun


Like many people across the country, I have heard “21” by Adele streaming through my earbuds for the last few weeks. Surely I can’t be the only person, since it has been the number one album in the U.S. for the last 10 weeks. I’ve often wished that the weather matched the music. The heart-wrenching songs that make up “21”, like “Set Fire to the Rain”, are better suited to rainy days than sunny June afternoons, but still I listen, because that voice is so pure and full of feeling. It’s so nice to hear a singer who doesn’t sound like she came through the American Idol factory farm of big-voiced singers.

I have also wondered if Adele’s appeal in particular, and the appeal of the recent bumper crop of British neo-soul singers in general (Amy Winehouse, Joss Stone, Duffy) is the incongruence between the voice and the face.  These booming voices sound like they could come from an African-American woman, those masters of R&B, soul and gospel (Adele definitely borrows from this latter genre).  So there is a disconnect between what we expect these singers to look like and what they actually are- young, white British women. Would Adele receive all of the acclaim if she was a black woman? Or would we shrug our shoulders and say, “Just another urban singer”?

Observing the novelty of a white soul signer from North London does not take away from Adele’s talent.  She is deserving of all of her success.  But it is interesting to note that she benefits from a look that many other soul singers don’t have.

2 Responses to “Deconstructing Adele”

  1. Chantilly Patiño (@biculturalmom) September 28, 2011 at 11:40 am #

    I have been thinking a lot about this too…so you’re not alone. It is offensive in a way, to think that many black entertainers who create similar canciones are not valued in the white community, but Adele is. It gives me a bit of an icky feeling because we’re essentially belittling the achievements within the black community, but recognizing the same skills in a white woman. On the flip side, I’m slightly glad that whites are appreciating the music style and voice. Overall though, I like her too, so I get the attraction. 😉


  1. What if Walter White were Black? | The Lebanexican - August 21, 2013

    […] African-American? I have posed this question in a slightly different form, as in my previous post, Deconstructing Adele. Voices as powerful and moving as Adele’s sing in black churches every Sunday, and yet Adele […]

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