Adele: Inside Her Private Life and Triumphant Return

Rolling Stone recently caught up with singing sensation Adele. In the article, she talks about her private life, quitting smoking, why she hates gym and being a fan of FKA Twigs.


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As Adele steers through a South London high street in her four-door Mini Cooper, with her toddler’s vacant car seat in back and the remains of a kale, cucumber and almond-milk concoction in the cup holder, a question occurs to her. “What’s been going on in the world of music?” she asks, in all sincerity. “I feel out of the loop!”

The only possible response is way too easy: Well, there’s this one album the entire industry is waiting for…

“Oh, fuck off!” Adele says, giving me a gentle shove and letting loose the charmingly untamed laugh — an ascending cascade of forceful, cartoonish “ha‘s” — that inspired a YouTube supercut called “The Adele Cackle.”

“Oh, my God, imagine,” she continues, green eyes widening. “I wish! I feel like I might be a year too late.” It’s as if her last album, 2011’s 21, hadn’t sold a miraculous 31 million copies worldwide in an era when no one buys music, as if it hadn’t sparked the adoration of peers from Beyoncé to Aretha, as if it hadn’t won every conceivable award short of a Nobel Peace Prize.

“But genuinely,” she says, “I’ve lost touch with music. Not, like, all music” — she’s a fan of FKA Twigs, loves Alabama Shakes, snuck into the crowd at Glastonbury to see Kanye — “but I feel like I don’t know what’s going on in the charts and in popular culture.” She laughs again. “I’ve not lost touch with, like, reality. Just with what’s current.” Her Cockney accent is softening lately, but she still pronounces “with” like it ends with a “v.”

Photograph by Theo Wenner

She’s driving under a sky that is gray and dismal even by the standards of early October London afternoons. Rain is coming, threatening Adele’s plans to take her three-year-old son, Angelo, to the zoo later. No one in the passing vehicles recognizes her. They never do, not in this car. “Maybe if I went out in full, done-up, hair-and-makeup drag,” she says. “Which it is: borderline drag! I’m not brave enough to do it.” Instead, she’s dressed like a grad student who barely got up in time for class, in a drapey blue-black sweater made of some hemplike fabric — it could almost be from Kanye’s dystopian fashion collection — over black leggings and white low-top Converse. Her golden hair is gathered in a loose bun, and she’s wearing twin hoop earrings in each ear. Her makeup is minimal, and though she claims to be developing a wrinkle or two, she looks strikingly young, with a clotted-cream complexion worthy of the cosmetics endorsements she’s turned down.

Adele is fresh from a rehearsal with her backing band, where she perched on a chair facing the musicians and sang her first-ever live version of “Hello,” the melancholy, surging first single from her third album, 25, due November 20th. (She turned 27 in May, but named the album after the age when she began work on it: “I’m going to get so much fucking grief: ‘Why is it called 25 when you’re not 25?'”) “Hello, it’s me,” she sings at the beginning of the single, as if there could be any doubt. When she finally puts the song out a couple of weeks later, it will rack up a record-setting 50 million YouTube views in its first 48 hours.

With a young child to raise, Adele took an unhurried approach to making the album. A full six months passed between writing the verses of “Hello” and nailing the chorus. “We had half a song written,” says producer/co-writer Greg Kurstin, who didn’t know if Adele was ever going to come back and finish it. “I just had to be very patient.”

The lyrics sound like she’s addressing some long-lost ex, but she says it isn’t about any one person — and that she’s moved on from the heartbreaker who inspired 21. “If I were still writing about him, that’d be terrible,” she says. “‘Hello’ is as much about regrouping with myself, reconnecting with myself.” As for the line “hello from the other side”: “It sounds a bit morbid, like I’m dead,” she says. “But it’s actually just from the other side of becoming an adult, making it out alive from your late teens, early twenties.”

Adele still hasn’t decided whether she’ll do a full-scale tour behind 25 — right now, the rehearsals are for TV performances. Her band has a few new members, and she’s especially excited to have a percussionist for the first time, an addition inspired by her childhood idols: “The Spice Girls had a mad percussionist,” she says.

In public, at least, Adele has had little to say — and nothing to sing — for the past couple of years, not since she and collaborator Paul Epworth won an Oscar for “Skyfall,” the first decent James Bond theme song in forever. “When I have nothing to say,” she says, “I’d rather just not talk.” But it takes just a few minutes with her to see that silence isn’t exactly her natural state. “I’m just fucking waiting for Frank fucking Ocean to come out with his album,” she says. “It’s taking so fucking long.” She blinks, pauses, laughs again. “That sounds so stupid, coming from me, doesn’t it?”

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