ADELE: THE FULL STORY

     
Adele wears a Valentino Haute Couture dress. Cartier earrings. Hair, Akki Shirakawa; Makeup, Frankie Boyd.

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Photographed by Alasdair Mclellan, thuocmaxman.vn, November 2021

On my way lớn Heart và Hustle, a private thể hình in West Hollywood, where I will be joining Adele for her Monday morning workout, I get the distinct feeling that the Queen of Hearts is about lớn put me through my paces.

It’s inevitable to lớn some degree. Adele has been doing rigorous weight-lifting and circuit-training sessions every day—twice a day if her anxiety is running high—for three years và counting. It is also true that if, say, the whole world went nuts at the first sight of your significant weight loss, and aired a lot of uninformed theories & loud opinions about your significant weight loss, one way lớn set the record straight và reclaim the narrative would be to put a journalist khổng lồ absolute shame at your gym.


When she arrives, breezing through the back door in head-to-toe spandex, my fate is clear. Adele is not merely fit. She’s a brick house, with the kind of muscle definition that’s visible through leggings. Heart và Hustle is a no-frills establishment, owned by two guys from thủ đô new york and Philly—the back entrance was designed khổng lồ resemble something from Goodfellas—and one of them, Gregg Miele, is here lớn lead our workout. Within minutes, Adele is going lớn town on an elliptical, and I’m just a few feet away, swishing around on another machine, already short of breath.


*

HELLO, AGAIN

Separation, motherhood, và the anxiety of fame all feature on Adele"s new album. Gucci blazer. Ralph Lauren Collection shirt. Fashion Editor: Tonne Goodman.


She starts peppering me with questions, cutting to lớn the quick in that uniquely disarming way that compels you to bởi the same. When this is sustained for any period of time, it results in a turbo-speed confessional that can only be conveyed with a timeline.


Two minutes and 50 seconds in: Adele mentions that she has a bad back. I tell her that I have two slipped discs. We establish that she has the same slipped discs (L5 & L6).


Three and a half minutes in: While going hard on the elliptical, Adele remarks, “I’m always a bit hungover on Monday morning.” Lockdown turned me into a seven-nights-a-week wine drinker, I tell her. She nods và says: “It got earlier and earlier, the drinking.”

Six minutes in: Adele says that she has probably spent more time with Miele in the last three years than anyone else. “All these other people have come out saying that they trained me,” she says. “Fuckin’ weirdos. I’ve never met them in my life!”

Nine và a half minutes in: I ask if COVID took an emotional toll. Adele responds that much of the emotional stuff her friends went through, she’d gone through the year before, in the middle of her divorce. (Adele was married khổng lồ the charity executive Simon Konecki for two years. They have a nine-year-old son, Angelo.) “Everyone had khổng lồ face a lot of their demons, because they had so much time on their hands with nothing to lớn distract them,” she says. “They had to lớn face themselves in isolation. Whereas I did that the year before.”

Eleven minutes in: Back on the subject of alcohol và lockdown. “My first emergency run at the grocery store was for Whispering Angel và ketchup,” Adele says, referring lớn her favorite rosé. “Whispering Angel turned me into a barking dog. It did not make me whisper.”

Twelve minutes in: I tell her that when lockdown lifted, I felt like an Edie emerging from Grey Gardens. “I got some of the worst ingrown hairs I’ve ever had in my life,” she replies.

It goes on lượt thích this for an hour, as Adele proceeds through every weight machine and I wilt in the manner of someone who hasn’t seen the inside of a thể hình since 2016. She spent many pandemic days & nights here, working out while a movie played on the TV. The Rocky series was a favorite, which may partially tài khoản for the boxing gloves she’s hung on a wall nearby. (One says FUCK, the other ORF.)


Adele will break into tuy nhiên a few times over the course of the day I spend with her. It’s fitting that the first time she does, it’s to sing a song from the Rocky soundtrack—a tuy vậy that, if you’ve seen any of the movies, will probably conjure slo-mo footage of an oiled-up Sylvester Stallone sprinting on the beach in dolphin shorts và tube socks.

Instead, imagine an Adele, who is now as athletic as that voice of hers, doing deep squats with God knows how many pounds of weight on her shoulders, belting it out with her singular, husky vibrato: “Getting strong nooowww!”


“I was just going through the motions và I wasn’t happy,” she says. “Neither of us did anything wrong. Neither of us hurt each other or anything like that” 


Adele’s trang chủ in Beverly Hills looks a lot lượt thích an English cottage, except that it’s somewhere on the order of 6,500 square feet. I meet her there after our workout and we settle into sofa chairs in her very English garden. She is wearing what look lớn be cashmere pants và an elegant trắng button-up, only one of whose buttons is buttoned, revealing a slim hourglass figure & braless décolletage.

Adele takes pains to lớn protect her voice, particularly since she underwent surgery in 2011 khổng lồ stop a vocal-cord hemorrhage. So it seems significant that when I ask what events led up to lớn her Year of Anxiety, she begins with two shows she had khổng lồ cancel in the summer of 2017. “I think once my voice rests it doesn’t want lớn come back for a while,” she says. “I think that’s what happened. The momentum went.” The shows were at Wembley Stadium, và canceling them meant canceling on 200,000 people. “I’m not allowed to lớn perform if I’m not well anymore, because obviously I had surgery years ago. So there was no even pushing through it. I was devastated.”


“Then I hit my Saturn return,” Adele says, flipping up her left wrist lớn show me a tattoo. It’s Saturn, the planet, with a drawing of L.A. In the middle. “It’s where I lost the plot.” It takes 27 khổng lồ 32 years for Saturn khổng lồ fully orbit around the sun and return to the position it was in when you were born, Adele explains. “When that comes, it can rock your life,” she says. “It shakes you up a bit: Who am I? What do I want khổng lồ do? What makes me truly happy? All those things.”

She does not blame her divorce on her Saturn return, but that was one result of it. “I was just going through the motions and I wasn’t happy,” she says. “Neither of us did anything wrong. Neither of us hurt each other or anything like that. It was just: I want my son khổng lồ see me really love, và be loved. It’s really important khổng lồ me.” She says she & Konecki were broken up for some time before they told people. (Adele filed for divorce in 2019.) “I’ve been on my journey to lớn find my true happiness ever since.”


*

What has the process entailed? “Well, my therapist told me that I had to sit with my little seven-year-old self. Because she was left on her own. And I needed lớn go sit with her và really address how I felt when I was growing up. Và issues with my dad. Which I’d been avoiding.” & what were those issues? “Not being sure if someone who is supposed to lớn love you loves you, & doesn’t prioritize you in any capacity when you’re little. You assume it and get used to lớn it. So my relationship with men in general, my entire life, has always been: You’re going to hurt me, so I’ll hurt you first. It’s just toxic & prevents me from actually finding any happiness.”


“The gym became my time. I realized that when I was working out, I didn’t have any anxiety. It was never about losing weight”


Adele elaborates: “Sometimes, with my own son, he could talk khổng lồ me in a certain way, & I shut down. With my own fucking child. I’ll take it so khổng lồ heart, what he’s saying, when actually what he’s saying is, No, I don’t want lớn go to lớn bed.” In relationships with men, she would assume a defensive stance, expecting things not to work out. “And being okay with it, because you had lớn be okay with it when you were younger.”


Adele’s father, Mark Evans, a Welsh plumber, died from cancer in May of this year. Their relationship had long been strained. Evans & Adele’s mother, Penny Adkins, split up shortly after Adele was born, leaving Adkins khổng lồ raise their daughter alone—first in Tottenham, then in Brixton, and later in West Norwood. After Adele got famous, Evans sold a story about her lớn the Sun newspaper. (Adele did go khổng lồ see Evans before he died. “I know he loved me, and we actually got our peace before he died,” she tells me. “When he passed, I had this sort of physical reaction. That fear left my body.” She adds: “My mom was incredible when my dad was at the final stages. She was there & helping.”)

What helped Adele get her through her Year of Anxiety? “It was a lot of sound baths. It was a lot of meditation. It was a lot of therapy. & a lot of time spent on my own.” The gym was key: “It became my time. I realized that when I was working out, I didn’t have any anxiety. It was never about losing weight. I thought, If I can make my body toàn thân physically strong, và I can feel that & see that, then maybe one day I can make my emotions và my mind physically strong.” She started with her lower back & stomach: “I have a bad back and I had a C-section. So I had just nothing going on down there.” (When I gọi Miele, her trainer, later, he confirms that the goal wasn’t weight loss. “It was getting stronger, physically và mentally. She got really turned on to lớn movement, & especially strength training. So turned on that she started doing double sessions.”)

Progress was slow & far from linear. “I’d have a lovely night with my friends,” she says, “and then I’d wake up lượt thích a tsunami was coming for me.” As a Taurus, she likes lớn schedule things, so she found the unpredictability of her anxiety excruciating. “I remember sitting out there with two of my friends”—she points khổng lồ a table farther out in the yard—“and I was like, When will I stop feeling lượt thích this? & they were like, In time. & I was like, Yeah, but how much time? & one of them cried and was just like, I don’t know. It’s gonna be a ride. and it was.”


One particular exchange stands out. “I told my friend, I feel like I’m on a steep mountain, trying to get up to the top.

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and she was like, You will get there. Và you’ll have a nice leisurely stroll down. Và then there’ll be another fucking mountain. và I’m like, I’m not even over this one yet. và she was like, That’s just life.” Adele flips up her right wrist khổng lồ show me a tattoo of a mountain, which she got at the over of 2019.

Some of the most difficult moments involved Angelo. On the whole, Adele says, the divorce has gone as smoothly as a divorce can. Konecki lives across the street, in a house Adele bought for him, và they cốt truyện custody (and bởi regular family movie nights). Even during the turbulent moments, Adele had faith that she was doing the right thing: “If I can reach the reason why I left, which was the pursuit of my own happiness, even though it made Angelo really unhappy—if I can find that happiness and he sees me in that happiness, then maybe I’ll be able lớn forgive myself for it.” But she couldn’t prevent the pain she was causing him in the meantime. One day, when he was only six và a half: “He said lớn my face, Can you see me? and I was like, Uh, yeah. và he was like, Cause I can’t see you. Well, my whole life fell apart in that moment. He knew I wasn’t there.” She decided to lớn have regular conversations with Angelo about what was happening. “That’s when I started sharing with him.”


*

She also started going to the studio. She wrote a tuy nhiên for Angelo the day after he told her he couldn’t see her. Over time, the album became a way of explaining things to lớn him—something for him to lớn listen khổng lồ when he’s older. “He has so many simple questions for me that I can’t answer, because I don’t know the answer. Like, Why can’t we still live together? That’s just not what people vày when they get divorced. But why not? I’m like, I don’t fucking know. That’s not what society does. And: Why don’t you love my dad anymore? and I’d be like, I vì love your dad. I’m just not in love. I can’t make that make sense khổng lồ a nine-year-old.”

For this và other reasons, the new album is different from her previous albums. “I realized that I was the problem,” Adele says. “Cause all the other albums are like, You did this! You did that! Fuck you! Why can’t you arrive for me? Then I was like: Oh, shit, I’m the running theme, actually. Maybe it’s me!

I ask if she revisited any iconic divorce albums in the process of writing hers—I am thinking of Sinéad O’Connor’s I vày Not Want What I Haven’t Got—and Adele responds that she didn’t know she was making a divorce album. She’s not sure it is one, in fact. “He’s not one of my exes. He’s the dad of my child.” If the new album is a divorce album, it’s a different kind of divorce album. “It was more me divorcing myself,” she says, exploding into a laugh that sounds lượt thích a balloon buzzing around a room as it deflates. “Just being like, Bitch, fuckin’ hot mess, get your fuckin’ shit together!

“It’s sensitive for me, this record, just in how much I love it,” Adele adds. “I always say that 21 doesn’t belong to lớn me anymore. Everyone else took it into their hearts so much. I’m not letting go of this one. This is my album. I want to mô tả myself with everyone, but I don’t think I’ll ever let this one go.”

To be around civilian Adele is khổng lồ forget that she is also that other Adele, the singer of soul-baring torch songs. Civilian Adele is a cutup, relentlessly self-effacing, and always taking the piss out of herself. We know from her music that the other Adele swims below the photic zone.

I catch a glimpse of the other one when her new songs are playing aloud in her sea-green kitchen. Seated on a stool, she leans back, her chest retreats inward, her head hangs down, và her whole torso rocks while her eyelids flutter, as though she is in a trance. It is difficult khổng lồ describe the emotional intensity of this toàn thân language, but the words rolling in the deep come to mind.

The first tuy nhiên she plays is the first song on the album, a gut-wrenching plea of a piano ballad, the chorus of which goes: “Go easy on me baby / I was still a child / Didn’t get the chance khổng lồ / Feel the world around me.” Her voice does different impossible Adele-ish things with the refrain “go easy,” và although it starts to take on a euphoric tone, by the end, I feel pummeled. “So that’s that one,” she says quietly. “Do you like it?” (Perhaps the only thing more surreal than having Adele play you her new music in her kitchen is the revelation that she feels nervous & vulnerable doing so.)


“It’s sensitive for me, this record, just in how much I love it. I always say that 21 doesn’t belong to lớn me anymore. Everyone else took it into their hearts so much. I’m not letting go of this one”


She queues up another one. “The next song is the one I wrote when I went to the studio the day after Angelo said I can’t see you.” A certain combination of elements—sexy ’70s groove, heavy strings, heavier lyrics—immediately calls khổng lồ mind Marvin Gaye. (What’s Going On was a “very big reference” on the album, turns out.) “My little love,” Adele sings in a low, smoky register. “I see your eyes / Widen like an ocean / When you look at me / So full of my emotions.” Between verses are snippets of conversations she had with Angelo during the Year of Anxiety, recorded at her therapist’s suggestion. The song ends with bits of a raw, teary voicemail she left for a friend. She was inspired khổng lồ incorporate voice notes by Tyler, the Creator and the British rapper Skepta, she explains. “I thought it might be a nice touch, seeing as everyone’s been at my door for the last 10 years, as a fan, lớn be like, Would you lượt thích to come in?


I’m not sure I will survive another of Adele’s new songs, but as she plays four more, it becomes clear that they are mapping a progression. The next one is cathartic, a soulful promise of new love that has her repeating variations of: “I just want khổng lồ love you for không lấy phí / Everybody wants something from me / You just want me.” The fourth tuy nhiên is downright upbeat, meant khổng lồ be a laugh-while-you’re-crying respite from the heaviness—“Otherwise we’d all kill ourselves, wouldn’t we?” Then comes a joyous anthem. Over gospelly organ she sings: “Let time be patient / Let pain be gracious.” Toward the over a chorus of her friends chimes in, chant-singing, “Just hold on, just hold on,” over & over. “The thing that they’re all singing is what my friends used khổng lồ say khổng lồ me,” Adele explains. “That’s why I wanted them to sing it, rather than an actual choir.”


The last tuy vậy she plays is the final tuy vậy on the album. It was written và recorded while a TV in the studio played Breakfast at Tiffany’s on mute, she explains. “As it finished, we were trying lớn work out how to end the song, & I said, We should write it as if we were writing the soundtrack—you know, at the over of the movie, where it pans out.” The arrangement is whimsical & wall-of-sound retro, full of strings & vibrato and midcentury romance, but the lyrics deliver a subversive twist. The first line: “All your expectations of my love are impossible.”

We are late for a lunch reservation at the khách sạn Bel-Air. Adele runs upstairs khổng lồ change clothes, then reappears in a gray sweatshirt & matching sweatpants. (“You can take the girl out of Brixton but you can’t take Brixton out of the girl.”) Fifteen minutes later, over a round of Aperol spritzes in a private dining room at the Bel-Air, we talk more about the album as a whole. “I was so fragile when I was writing it that I wanted to lớn work only with a few people,” Adele says.

She wrote both the piano ballad and the tuy vậy about Angelo with Greg Kurstin, with whom she wrote “Hello.” Later, I ask Kurstin by phone about writing songs with Adele. “She has this way of tackling very complex emotional subject matter that I’ve never seen,” he says. “Also there’s this commitment to lớn a song idea, where if the opening line of a song resonates with her, we could be working on it over the course of years, just perfecting it.” Kurstin adds, “She pushes me lớn places that are very unexpected on the piano. Sometimes I’ll be looping a progression for hours while she’s figuring out the lyrics. It’s almost lượt thích a meditation.”


*

The friend-chorus song and the Breakfast at Tiffany’s song were written with Inflo, the producer from North London who works a lot with Danger Mouse. “He’s brutally honest with me, like no one else would dare,” Adele says of Inflo. “He’s sort of got this constant resting bitch face, really.” A handful of others worked on songs I didn’t hear: the Swedish pop wizards Max Martin & Shellback; the Swedish composer Ludwig Göransson; & the Canadian singer-songwriter Tobias Jesso Jr., on a “very powerful song” she describes as “an Édith Piaf-y moment.” As with her previous albums, the vocal tracks are original demos because, she explains, demos have a charisma & an urgency that get lost if you rerecord them. “I never redo my vocals. Never. Never ever.

After hearing Adele describe her two years of turmoil, and then hearing some of the songs that resulted from it, I find myself wondering about seven-year-old Adele. What role did music play in that Adele’s life? “It was my friend,” she says. “Music was literally my friend. I was an only child. Music was my sibling I never had. That’s why I love Beyoncé so much. She would put out music so regularly, it would be lượt thích seeing her. It really felt like that for me. It made me feel a lot of things.”

The week before our interview, Adele went out in public for the first time with her new boyfriend, the sports agent Richard Paul. They attended game 5 of the NBA Finals—Phoenix Suns versus Milwaukee Bucks—and sat in the stands with one of Paul’s clients, LeBron James.

Earlier in our day, Adele had mentioned that she and Paul were friends for a while but didn’t start a relationship until the beginning of this year. “He was always there, I just didn’t see him,” she’d said. Over another round of Aperol spritzes, she tells me they met at a các buổi party a couple years ago. “I was a bit drunk. I said: Do you want to sign me? I’m an athlete now.” She adds, “He’s just so fucking funny.” & also: “He was dancing. All the other guys were just sitting around. He was just dancing away.”


Adele did not enjoy the dating process. “It’s been shit. Và 99.9 percent of the stories that have been written about me are absolutely made up.” Then, just before her dad died, “Rich just incredibly arrived.” She feels safe with Paul—“I don’t feel anxious or nervous or frazzled. It’s quite the opposite. It’s wild”—and there is no second-guessing. “I’m a 33-year-old divorced mother of a son, who’s actually in charge. The last thing I need is someone who doesn’t know where they’re at, or what they want. I know what I want. & I really know what I don’t want.”

Was the decision lớn go public a deliberate one? Adele: “I didn’t mean khổng lồ go public with it. I just wanted to go khổng lồ the game. I just love being around him. I just love it.” The topic did come up on the way to the game, though. “He was like, What are people going khổng lồ say? và I was like, That you signed me. As an athlete. You’re my agent. & he was like, Okay, cool.

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This is something of a new approach for Adele, who has generally solved the problems of fame by withdrawing from it completely. At one point she even considered pulling out of music altogether. She wrote to lớn her manager: “This isn’t really for me. It’s not why I love music.”

“I got really famous right as Amy Winehouse died,” she says. “And we watched her die right in front of our eyes.” Adele was worried that she too could spiral out of control. “I’ve always had a very close relationship with alcohol. I was always very fascinated by alcohol. It’s what kept my dad from me. So I always wanted khổng lồ know what was so great about it.” But different characters come out when you’re drunk, she says, và once you look a little reckless, the press really wants to make a story out of you. “They descend, và descend, & descend on you, which drives you fucking mad.”

Winehouse’s death was a defining moment. “It really offended me. I picked up the guitar because of Amy’s first album. She means the most to lớn me out of all artists. Because she was British. Because she was amazing. Because she was tortured. Because she was so funny. I’m not having these people I don’t know take my legacy, my story away from me, and decide what I can leave behind or what I can take with me.”


She decided to disappear for long stretches of time. “I thought, I’m just going lớn lock myself in a house. That’s what I did. I was very reclusive. It paid off, I think. People are used khổng lồ me being a recluse.” Becoming a mom helped too. “Sometimes I get frightened by the idea of where my life would have gone had I not gotten pregnant with Angelo,” she says. It anchored you? I ask. “Beyond,” she says. “They both saved me. There was a real reason why Simon came into my life.”

Anything Adele does still makes news, as demonstrated by the uproar over her weight loss. About that: “My body’s been objectified my entire career. It’s not just now. I understand why it’s a shock. I understand why some women especially were hurt. Visually I represented a lot of women. But I’m still the same person.” The worst part of the whole thing: “The most brutal conversations were being had by other women about my body. I was very fucking disappointed with that. That hurt my feelings.”

And she still takes measures to avoid ramping up her fame. She avoided writing a certain kind of song for the next album, for instance. “There isn’t a bombastic ‘Hello,’ ” she tells me at one point. “But I don’t want another song lượt thích that. That tuy nhiên catapulted me in fame khổng lồ another cấp độ that I don’t want to lớn happen again. I’m not saying I’ve got ‘Hello’s in my pocket. I was just conscious that I didn’t want my story on this album lớn sound like that.”

But she is trying in small ways lớn integrate her famous và private selves. For example, she used khổng lồ avoid going out to lớn dinner or turning up at a friend’s birthday tiệc nhỏ because she didn’t want people taking pictures of her. These days, more và more, she asks herself: What’s the worst that could happen? With the new album on its way (Adele is adamant that it come out in tangible form—on CDs và vinyl—as well as on streaming services), she has taken to warning her friends in L.A., “I’m getting ready khổng lồ be famous again.”

One thing that will surely be different this time is Angelo. He doesn’t yet understand that his mom is famous. They live a low-key life when Adele isn’t touring, và the last time she went on tour, Angelo was only four. He watched his mom warm up in stadiums, but he would leave with Konecki or a nanny before the stadiums filled up with fans. This became extra-clear lớn Adele when she took Angelo lớn see his favorite artist, Taylor Swift, in 2018. It was the first time he saw a stadium full of people. “His jaw dropped,” she says. “I got really annoyed! I was like, Excuse me! This is what I do, you know. He said, When we go on tour, should I have a seat next to me with Taylor Swift’s name on it for Taylor khổng lồ come?