Adele: Timeless At 22 The Grammy-winning British singer has just released her second album, 21. Adele says her love affair with American soul began with a happy accident in a London record store.
NPR logo

Adele: An Unforgettable Voice, Timeless At 22

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Adele: An Unforgettable Voice, Timeless At 22

Adele: An Unforgettable Voice, Timeless At 22

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Melissa Block.


ADELE: (Singing) Should I give up or should I just keep chasing pavements?

BLOCK: That debut single three years ago, "Chasing Pavements," marked Adele's arrival at age 19. Now, two Grammy Awards and millions of record sales later, Adele is out with her second album, titled "21," songs steeped in her love for American soul and R&B.


ADELE: (Singing) See how I leave with every piece of you. Don't underestimate the things that I will do. There's a fire starting in my heart, reaching a fever pitch, and it's bringing me out the dark. The scars of your love remind me of us...

BLOCK: Adele told me about a musical turning point - a happy accident in a London record store.

ADELE: Yeah, I was about 14, I think. I was in HMV. And I went in and I saw an Ella Fitzgerald record in like, a bargain bin. And I'd heard of her. And then I saw like, the most stunning woman I've ever seen in my life, and she had this, like, beehive weave and these catty eyes and this most (unintelligible) like, seductive figure, and this look on her face of like, don't mess with me. And it was Etta James.

BLOCK: Etta James.

ADELE: And it was about a pound. It was about - it's kind of generic, best-of compilation. And I bought it. And about a year later, I actually listened to it for the first time. I didn't listen to it for ages. And I heard it and it was just - she went right through me. It was the first time that I'd ever been so moved like, by someone's voice, and the songs and just - the whole thing moved me.

BLOCK: So first, it was the look.

ADELE: Yeah. It was the look. And then it was the voice. And then it was the songs.

BLOCK: And we should say right now that you've got a bit of the bouffant and the catty eyes on you today, long, long...

ADELE: Love a bouffant, yeah.

BLOCK: ...fake eyelashes.


BLOCK: Are you channeling a little bit of Etta James?

ADELE: Probably, consciously and subconsciously. Probably, yes.

BLOCK: What do you think it was in her voice?

ADELE: I just believed her; like, I was totally like, convinced by it. And every time she, like, gasped for air, I was like (gasps), even if I wasn't singing along, you know? I was just like - she just - it was like she was singing the song that was written for me, and about me, 50 years after she recorded it.


ADELE: (Singing) Throw yourself through every open door. Whoah. Count your blessings to find what you look for. Whoah. Turn my sorrow into treasured gold. Whoah. You pay me back in kind and reap just what you've sow.

BLOCK: So you're listening to Etta James. You're a teenager. And what would you have been listening to before that? What was sort of in the mix for your soundtrack?

ADELE: I discovered Destiny's Child when I was about 11.

BLOCK: Destiny's Child.

ADELE: Yeah. But before that, it was pretty narrow.


ADELE: It was like, the Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys, and British boy bands called Take That and East 17. And that was how broad my taste was.

NORRIS: Jeff Buckley and like, 10,000 Maniacs and Bob Dylan, and stuff like that - and Joni Mitchell and Janis Joplin. So she had brilliant taste in music. But at the time, you're not supposed to like what your parents like. So I was a little bit like, dismissive of it. But I think it was because of her taste - I think that's why I ended up evolving into becoming a singer.

BLOCK: Was she encouraging? Would she be...

ADELE: Yeah.

BLOCK: Yeah?

ADELE: Yeah. No, she's the most supportive person in my life, ever. Like, for like, the ninth time on one Friday night, I'd be like, Mum, sit down. I want to sing you a song, you know. She'd be like, OK.


ADELE: I'm sure she was bored out of her mind and a bit like, oh, my God, the same song again, but she always did (unintelligible).


BLOCK: When you think about where you fit as a pop singer, and the sound that you want to create, how are you making those choices? What do you - what are you thinking of?

ADELE: You know, I really want people to come on a journey with me. I don't want to be an anonymous hear - do you know what I mean? Like, there's so many songs that are on my iPod. I have no idea who the artist is, and they've never got - they've never made a record. I mean, they've just made a single. And I don't want to be one of those people. And if I'd done what was successful last year, that's what I would have been, and I don't want to do that.


ADELE: (Singing) But I set fire to the rain. Watch it pour as I touch your face. Let it burn while I cry because I heard it screaming out your name, your name.

BLOCK: You know, Adele, as we were listening to this just now, you took the headphones off. You said - what?

ADELE: I hate - I hate the sound of my own voice.

BLOCK: What do you mean, you hate the sound of your own ...

ADELE: I do. It's like, you know, when you're little and you like, hear - a teacher might record the class when they're not in there. And then you hear your voice back; it's like, oh my God, is that what I sound like? You sound so much different in your head when you're singing to yourself than you do when it's out there.


BLOCK: I'm just shocked to hear you say that.


ADELE: Oh, yeah, no. If I wasn't me, I wouldn't listen to my music.


ADELE: This is embarrass - I just find it really awkward. It's become boiling hot all of a sudden.

BLOCK: But - well - and now, I'm really intrigued by this, though. When you're performing on stage, you're hearing your voice. You're...

ADELE: Yeah. But it sounds different to me because I'm hearing it as I'm singing it. It's in my head. Does that make sense?

BLOCK: Mm-hmm.

ADELE: Yeah. So I don't hear what everyone else is hearing. I only hear what everyone else is hearing when I listen...

BLOCK: Listen to recordings.

ADELE: a recording, yeah.


ADELE: (Singing) Didn't I give it up? Tried my best. Gave you everything I had. Everything and no less.

BLOCK: So many of the songs on the new CD are all about heartbreak.

ADELE: Mm-hmm.

BLOCK: It sounds like you've been through a lot. You're only 22, but...


ADELE: Yeah.

BLOCK: ...there seems to be lot of wear and tear in these songs.

ADELE: No more than any other 21-, 22-year-old girl. It's just, I write about mine so mine's a bit magnified, and seem a little bit more dangerous.


ADELE: (Singing) But go on and take it. Take it all with you. Don't look back at this crumbling fool. Just take it all with my love. Take it all with my love.

BLOCK: Adele, I've been wondering what it's like to be you at age 22 - looking forward to this future, discovering stuff all the time.

ADELE: Yeah.

BLOCK: What must that look like for you?

ADELE: I don't know. I'm quite easily pleased and easily satisfied. I could die and go to heaven right now. I'm fine. I mean, I don't look forward that much. Kind of like maybe about two months, I look forward. I don't look forward to, like, when I'm like 40 or 50, really.

BLOCK: So if you think of some of the singers who've been influential for you - Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald; women who've had very long careers.

ADELE: Yeah. I know. I'd love to, but I mean, again, you know, I think it's pretty unlikely. There might not even be a music industry next year.


BLOCK: So you don't think that way?

ADELE: No. I feel like - I feel like - sort of all a bit too good to be true. So, I mean, I don't know how long it could go on. I mean, I'd love it to go on forever; don't get me wrong. But I don't know how long you can get away with it.


ADELE: (Singing) Never mind. I'll find someone like you. BLOCK: Well, Adele, thank you for coming in.

ADELE: Thank you so much for having me.


ADELE: (Singing) ...for you.

BLOCK: You can hear Adele's entire new album, "21," at You'll also find video of her Tiny Desk concert here at NPR.


ADELE: (Singing) Sometimes it lasts in love, but sometimes it hurts instead.

BLOCK: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.