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What's Her Secret? The Method to Adele's Madness

Posted: 10/05/11 01:24 AM ET

Still sitting on the lofty number-one spot of the U.S. Billboard album charts, Adele's powerhouse album, 21, makes us all feel cheery and slightly melodramatic. But how does a young, heartbroken British woman pen and record an album so fantastic that its songs remain on American charts for nearly nine consecutive months? What makes Adele's songwriting so resonant? What makes us, the consumers and enjoyers of music, so willing to continuously financially support a musician for 27 weeks straight?

Adele's key ingredient? Schadenfreude. Who does not find his or herself basking in the glory of another's misfortune? Adele's broken-down 2011 VMA performance was the one which stood out from a night of glitz and glamour. Adele stood in front of a microphone with a pianist behind her and simply sang her heart out. It is nothing short of miraculous that an elegant ballad singer can still make it in the music industry while competing with senses-blowing artists like Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, and the Black-Eyed Peas.

People take pride in having known of an artist from the moment of its conception, à la hipster stereotype. Normally those who brag about listening "to Lady GaGa before anyone else" annoy me to tears, but I am proud to say I heard about Adele quite some time ago. Surely, I was not in the recording studio when she laid down her first tracks from 19, but iTunes featured "Hometown Glory," a single from Adele's first album, 19, in February of 2008 for a free download. Adele will claim, however, that her American break was during her Saturday Night Live performance on the same episode as Sarah Palin's guest appearance. The American public's lust for a laugh at the expense of Sarah Palin caused a surge in viewers that evening who would also watch Adele in amazement. Thus began, according to Adele, her ascent in the United States.

I tend to be able to gauge a musician's commercial worth on one thing: mothers' approval. If I were to play a song by Adele in the car with my mom, not only would she approve, but she would sing and clap along, too. Adele, if you can win over my mother, you deserve your number-one spot on nearly every worldwide chart. "Rolling In The Deep," the reigning number-one single in the U.S., is a demo tape with added instrumentals. Yes, the stomping is simply made from Adele's Chanel pumps slamming on the studio floor. Such a simple composition for such a monster hit. Sometimes less is more.

In a world of performance artists -- not musicians -- it is surely refreshing to see someone like Adele take stage. Lady Gaga will tape green armpit hair to herself in the name of art, while Adele can simply stand in front of a microphone in silhouette lighting, belt her heart out, and still climb the music charts. Most performers these days sound better in a studio recording, yet Adele manages to blow the crowd away by providing deviations to her recorded tracks that still sound just as good -- if not better. Adele is testament that real music is, in fact, not dead.