After her triumphant, record-breaking year, Adele faced surgery—and silence. With her voice back, she opens up to Jonathan Van Meter about fame, family, and what the future holds.
Every singer knows the List: citrus, vinegar, mint, dairy, spicy or fried foods, fizzy drinks, caffeine, cigarettes, and alcohol. These are the vocal cords’ enemies. And when one has a five-octave contralto as dynamic, award-winning, moneymaking, and record-breaking as Adele Laurie Blue Adkins does, one figures out how to avoid these things. Some require less effort than others. Mint? Vinegar? Feh. Cigarettes? Not so easy. Over the few days that I spend around Adele, I see her sneak a fag here and there. No one is perfect. But alcohol? For a once hard-drinking South London pub girl who has admitted that she has written some of her best songs after a few belts, I would have thought this might present something of a challenge. Not so much, it turns out. Adele hasn’t had a drink since last June. She gave it up cold turkey right around her birthday (May 5) last year. “Don’t like drinking anymore,” she says in an accent that falls somewhere between Eliza Doolittle and David Beckham. “I think I got it out of my system. D’yaknowhaImean?”
Watch the behind-the-scenes video of Adele’s cover shoot.
It is a chilly afternoon in mid-December, and we are sitting in a hotel bar in London’s Mayfair neighborhood. Despite the fact that it is perfectly warm inside, Adele is all bundled up. She is wearing a dramatic fake-fur hat that lends her head a cone shape, black jodhpurs, Chanel riding boots, and a great big fuzzy sweater-poncho contraption. Her plaid Sonia Rykiel bag sits on the banquette between us. When I order a glass of white wine, Adele doesn’t flinch. In fact, when the waitress asks what kind of white wine and I hesitate for a moment, Adele jumps in with a funny/charming/controlling burst of impatience and orders for me (she herself has a glass of cranberry juice). Within a span of five minutes, I am introduced to several of the explosive laughs in the Adele repertoire. There is the high-pitched hee! hee! hee! hee! hee!; the machine gun–fired ha! ha! ha! ha! ha!; the single, startling honk!; and the full-throated, rip-roaring cackle (it defies the alphabet) that she lets loose dozens of times a day. Adele likes volume, which might very well be her undoing in the vocal-cord department. Projecting one’s voice when one is not onstage is also on the List.
Get The Look: Adele's Old World Beauty
“I am quite loud and bolshie,” she says (British slang for unruly and clamorous). “I’m a big personality. I walk into a room, big and tall and loud.” Indeed. There is no doubt when Adele is in the building. The rule of thumb for protecting one’s vocal cords, she tells me, is: If people are more than an arm’s length away, you shouldn’t talk to them. “But I am like, Wah! Wah! Wah!,” she says, laughing. “It’s really bad.”