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How Adele gets away with defying every rule of pop-music domination

🕐 4 min read

Treasure this album, Adelephiles, because who knows when the next one is coming.

Assuming there’s any sort of pattern between “19,” “21,” and now “25,” we could maybe see Adele’s fourth studio album when she’s 31. Or if she’s just going to double the number of years between each successive release, perhaps the next album will be “33.”

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. “25” hasn’t even dropped yet; it comes out Nov. 20, and the masses whose ears have been touched by Adele’s golden voice are happy just for that. Adele is a rare bird these days, a contemporary pop artist who actually allows herself to go away and be missed.

Ubiquity drives modern celebrity these days, especially in the music business. Just ask Lil Wayne and Kesha, both embroiled in conflicts with their record companies and anguishing over the fact that litigation and contractual red tape has thwarted their ability to release new music. Even in the bombastic, farcical universe of “Empire,” Hakeem Lyon decides to go rogue and leak his album, which belongs to Empire, after he and Cookie, banned from the company, establish a record company of their own.

And here’s Adele, who joined Twitter in 2010 and has tweeted, as of this publishing, a total of 226 times since.

Even Beyoncé, who is also famously Twitter averse, felt the need to lay down the law on “Bow Down/I Been On” in March 2013 as she was approaching a two-year gap since the release of her album, “4.” “I took some time to live my life/but don’t think I’m just his little wife/Don’t get it twisted, get it twisted/This my s-; bow down b–es.”

The latest and greatest feat of entertainers is maintaining a media presence even when there’s nothing concrete to promote. (A longtime trick has involved tipping off paparazzi and then scowling at them while making sure they capture the label of whatever borrowed, mortgage payment-priced handbag you happen to be toting.)

Adele has proven that’s it’s possible for a celebrity to disappear when they want to and remain relatively unbothered. Remaining visible is a deliberate decision, and it’s one most pop stars have to make on some level. It is possible for someone to stay away for too long.

“Someone” however, does not seem to include Adele. How does she get away with it?

Everything about her suggests that Adele is an old soul. Her styling hearkens to a bygone era when stars could still seem mysterious and you needed a subscription to a magazine like Confidential to find out the more sordid bits about their lives. Lana Del Rey also has a more classic vibe, but Del Rey certainly could not pull off what Adele has: to disappear from music for three years and then emerge with a video that with 27.7 million views surpassed Taylor Swift’s record (20.1 million for “Bad Blood”) for single-day views. Even Adele’s decision to step away from music, raise her 2-year-old son and enjoy country life in West Sussex with her partner, Simon Konecki, feels retro.

The “Mad Men”-styling is part of what makes Adele exceptional, as is her fairly conservative release strategy. There’s no surprise. The possibility of an early release is doubtful. She teased her lead single, “Hello,” and then published the video. She’s granted one interview to Vice i-D and has everyone abuzz. The song is on track to becoming the fastest-selling U.K. single of 2015.

Adele has won by exercising restraint, but she simply wouldn’t be able to do it if she didn’t produce popular music that feels thoughtful and personal and real. It’s something everyone chases and tries their best to cash in on – just look at Blake Lively’s failed lifestyle site, Preserve.

In August, Britain’s dubiously sourced Daily Mail ran a story claiming that Adele turned down an offer to make £80 million ($122.5 million) touring after the release of “25” to stay home and raise her son, Angelo. Even if it’s not true, it feels like it could be, doesn’t it? The more likely reality is that Adele’s voice can’t accommodate a massive 200-date world tour. She told Anderson Cooper in 2012 that the vocal polyps that silenced her for four months in 2011 could return if she stresses her voice too much.

The truth is, Adele wins respect from her peers and adoration from her fans because she feels authentic in a way few celebrities do. She speaks with a charming, thick cockney accent that hasn’t changed as she’s gotten famous and rich enough to buy a house in Notting Hill. She loves to swear. She’s Amy Winehouse, in some respects, minus her demons.

She’s a person first, not a brand, through truthfully, some would posit that “she’s a person, not a brand” is her brand. “I don’t want to just be some skinny mini with my t–s out,” she told Cooper.

In a world in which everything bespoke, free-range, artisanal and overwhelmingly Etsy-ed now feels like just another cynical ploy to separate you from your money, Adele is the real deal. As long as she remains true to that, she’ll be able to step away for as long as she wants.

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