Ir’s hard to say what were the real reasons people were attracted to Adele: her voice, or the fact she’s a big woman with “that voice”? It’s almost as if anyone who is bigger than the fashion magazine norm is not only made to feel inferior, but are stereotyped as people who are lower than, worse than, anything that is against what is an accepted norm. Or maybe it’s her lyrics and the stories that came from someone with that voice, where circumstances, issues, and situations didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was the immediacy of what was heard, and thus remembered as an emotion felt, and emotions that could be unlocked at any given time with the sound of “that voice” coming from “that person”. That person is Adele, and with her success in the last few years, everyone wants to know what is next for her. Writer Sarah-Louise James decided to investigate and look back at what came before in order to get to where Adele is today, with Adele: A Celebration of an Icon and Her Music (Sterling).
Off the top, the book is “unofficial and unauthorized”, which means the information written and gathered did not come from Adele directly, or approved by her management/camp. It’s a book that documents her life and career-to-date from a number of different sources, friends, and associates. While the public tends to expect a silly tell-all story, James respectfully touches on her childhood, influences (music and otherwise) and what lead to her moving from casually singing at home with tapes and CD’s to wanting to sing in public and do this for a living. What I like about this is that James always makes sure to state that Adele is very much about being a singer. When artists tend to get celebrated and are given awards and accolades, there seems to be a mythical bubble created around them so that they’re unapproachable and more than human. By stating that she loves to play guitar, piano, and writes her own material, James looks at Adele Atkins as the little girl with a love for music and singing who grew up and managed to find a way to share her hobbies. It does so by also investigating her albums and songs in a way that’s more than the casual tabloid fodder of “this is Adele, this is her singing, her warm heart” blah blah blah, she gets quite detailed about her musical path and recording sessions without getting too nerdy. From inception to promotional campaign to Adele herself keeping her head above water, it’s a book done with respect for the artist, her craft, and what she has managed to do in only six years. While there is the obvious focus of what she has accumulated and won (i.e. hits and awards), James looks at Adele from a behind-the-scenes perspective, but never too close, which I hope will make readers realize she’s a regular person like all of us, and it is perhaps that regularity that makes fans want to believe in everything she writes and how she sings it.
The writing is well done and comes off like reading a profile of Adele in a magazine, but wishing there was a lot more to grip and hold on to. Adele: A Celebration of an Icon and Her Music is that book. Despite what the title says, it is very much about Adele and her music. While one can read about the construction of an icon, the real story is knowing about what will hold up that construction, because all artists know that anything with stability can and will fall. While people will be quick to call her an icon, this book is a celebration of only six years of music and entertainent. In 6, 12, or 25 years, perhaps James will be able to add new books to Adele’s story, documenting the progress from one point to another. It may be “unofficial & unauthorized”, but perhaps Adele should consider making James an official Adele archivist.