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Adele Smiles Through The Pain on 30

In the wake of unexpected new sounds, we look back at some of the pop-soul titan's most surprising moments. 

by Ben Boddez

Photo by Simon Emmett

With sales projections already giving her the year’s most successful opening week, easily breaking a million copies and doubling her closest competition in Taylor Swift, it’s clear that Adele’s six-year absence from the music industry has been deeply felt. Continuing the trend of titling her albums after the age she was during the story being told, 30 sees her detailing her 2018 marriage and divorce from longtime partner Simon Konecki. Many outlets have immediately declared it her best album yet, and although it might not hit the same marks of the soaring, cathartic balladry we know her for, it’s certainly her most ambitious and experimental.

With a handful of songs that are over six minutes in length and a couple unexpected turns of genre, it often feels like Adele is trying to cope with her sadness by making herself laugh and having as much fun as possible with her creative outlet. Fans have been clamouring for an upbeat Adele song for years, but likely never expected a full-on house-inspired dance track full of synth bass like “Oh My God.” There are tracks that evoke country and gospel energy, and she even switches up her wheelhouse with some Elton John-style piano rock and high-tempo classic soul. Simultaneously addressing how emotionally spent and exhausted she is, afraid to start all over romantically, is a powerful juxtaposition to keep the Adele essence around. 

When the truly emotional moments do crop up, they hit even harder. Highly vulnerable voice notes where Adele breaks down in tears and has tough conversations with her son add extra weight to her lyrics, and the climactic seven-minute epic ballad that is “To Be Loved” immediately stands out as one of her greatest songs yet. There are certainly moments where it feels like she’s holding her magical voice back, but it’s a true achievement when it comes to storytelling.

With Adele trying out some new and surprising musical twists in order to fully express herself on her latest, we thought we’d take a look back at some of the most unexpected moments of her career. While listening to her biggest hits makes it easy to picture Adele as sophisticated and proper as the royal family that runs her home country, she often reminds us that the reality is the exact opposite. Her cartoonish Cockney accent only serves to make her reckless behaviour and steady stream of curses whenever she opens her mouth all the more hilarious.

Adele’s Got Bars 

We would be remiss without mentioning Adele’s affinity for hip-hop music, most notoriously famous for belting out Nicki Minaj’s iconic and dizzying verse from Kanye West’s “Monster” on cue. She often reveals her love of the genre during interviews, most recently revealing that she’s been lucky enough to have heard some of Kendrick Lamar’s long-awaited new music. It’s truly unfortunate that her relationship with UK grime rapper Skepta didn’t last long enough to get a collab between the two on this genre-hopping project. While she most famously demonstrated her skills on James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke, here she is without all the edits, proving once and for all that the Queen of Rap has some competition.

The Beetle Attack 

While Adele’s global fandom has seen her matching records only set by The Beatles, a member of their own decided to strike back at a 2017 concert in Auckland, New Zealand. Viral videos of Adele being bombarded by various animals have been strangely common over the years – she’s also been assaulted by bats and mosquitoes that have sent her into hysterics, but not at the same level of this insect that quickly shattered her dignified image by sending her rolling all over the stage, flashing the audience and swearing with reckless abandon. Things only got worse when the beetle took up residence in her forgotten shoe during all the commotion.

Everyone Loves Beyonce

Even at one of the most formal award shows, Adele can’t keep her spontaneous personality down for long. Following a long-standing tradition of artists wishing that all awards were promptly given to Beyonce instead, Adele spent most of her Album of the Year-winning speech – her second time winning the prestigious award, for 21 and 25 – praising her competitor’s Lemonade instead. While the TV broadcast quickly cut away, Adele broke her trophy in half live on stage to give a portion to the woman she calls “the artist of my life.” You can still see her dropping F-bombs in praise of her idol on the official Recording Academy YouTube channel, however.

Are You Not Entertained

There’s something about legendary British talk show The Graham Norton Show that always brings out Adele’s rambunctious side. Whether it’s telling the story of sharing a bathroom, awestruck, with Jennifer Aniston – down to the vulgar details – or agreeing to dress up as an Adele impersonator for a prank on her adoring fans, nothing tops her antics on his “Big Red Chair” segment in the early days of her career. Norton invites civilians to tell their funniest or most interesting stories to celebrities, who have the power to pull a lever and eject them, medieval-style. Adele, trademark glass of wine in hand, simply couldn’t control herself and sent the unfortunate Scott from Stockbridge flying after only a couple words.

Porcine Piano Ballads

Two British titans collided during a promo cycle for Adele’s latest album. After immediately shutting down the possibility of a collaboration with Peppa Pig during an Instagram Live session, real voice actress, 10-year-old Amelie Bea Smith, called into the Capital FM studios to twist the knife even further. As it turns out, Adele’s beef – or rather, her pork – is only with the famous pig’s former voice actress, who played her until last year and tormented Adele through her young son’s repeat viewings. The two made plans to jump in muddy puddles together, but still no word on music. We can’t imagine why Adele wouldn’t be open to a collab – “Bing Bong Zoo” is a banger.