Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Adele: An unmediated Joy

Somehow, it does not feel wrong, a man on the wrong side of forties, listening to heartbreak song from a girl of 19, 21 or 25 (though she is 27 now). She is pure voice and when Adele sings, such songs are not teen, girly stuff. She infuses those cries, angst and pain with so much classical dignity that it pierces the heart with simple happiness. Not for nothing, her song writing has been compared with Shubert and Beatles. So the sartorial dignity of yours truly remains uncompromised.

        Elsewhere, while talking about painting, I wrote of Cezanne’s ‘imperative of solidity’. An artistic output that strives for a solid presence without losing any of its lyricism and suppleness, Adele’s   songs are solid. She delivers a fully formed concrete reality. Many find her ‘incapable of a false note’. Such perfection can turn mechanical, blemishes are life, perfection is stone. There is nothing plastic when she sings. 

        There may not be any false note but she has that “perfect imperfect voice”. A voice that is capable of hitting you with total brutality. Coarse reality living on those notes but fine sensibilities get transmitted through supreme control and superlative vocal skills. The throw and thrum just gets conjured up and stands up in person. Just watch the video of ‘Hello’ and first ‘hello’ comes with burning of stove-yes, let there be light and there was light. 

        Her songs convey doubt, uncertainty and yearning but this she does by hitting every note fully – totally bereft of tentativeness. Note comes out fully formed, loud, clear and confident of its purpose. No wobble, no dithering. This direct appeal, this ‘unmediated expression, further reinforced by next door, simple English girl persona is huge part of her appeal. Her voice is not silken but throaty, ‘toothsome’ throw. It has timber that can carry her frailties and pain with a confidence of a supremely talented youngster.       

What has been termed as ‘throwback classicism’  of her song writing led to Newyorker slotting her as a “soul singer in the most expansive and truest sense.” Songs that are “points of reckoning, reflections, admissions of culpability sung purely and without guile, because what’s it matter now?” Adele from her retrospective analysis and regret is able to convey joy of a relationship with all the attending joy of poetry and music. She can be angry as a youngster or regret some of her behaviour or choices or just stay amazed at the intensity of pain (“They say that time’s supposed to heal you, but I ain’t done much healing.”). Beyond all this artistry is the artist who manages to create musical tsunami at will without surrendering to the demands of the cutthroat world of music industry. 

She can afford to bring out albums after gap of years, say no to tours that sell music, have a combative stance with the streaming services, indulging in a voice destroying eating and drinking habits (though now subdued)and having absolutely non flashy song delivery style (“. I just want to sing it. I don’t want to perform with my body.”). With this she comes back and as matter of routine nonchalantly collect Grammy, Oscars and sales of millions.  This next door girl image add to her relatability. Audience feel protective about her and when such a person delivers music with such sublime facility, response is huge. As was said earlier, it is pure voice that hits with its completeness, and comprehensive throw that has made Adele what she is today. Absence of antics is part of this great ‘unmediated expression’.  

-Dhiraj Singh

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