Adele, the British soul singer-songwriter and multiple Grammy nominee, plays Neumo's on Monday, Jan. 26, with James Morrison sharing the bill.
No one owes more to Sarah Palin than young British soul sensation Adele.
The singer-songwriter had won an avid following in the U.K. as a teenager by posting video on her MySpace page. But the American reception of her British chart-topping debut album “19” (Columbia) was something of a disappointment — at least until she happened to land a spot on the Oct. 18 broadcast of “Saturday Night Live,” with, you guessed it, Sen. John McCain’s running mate.
Adele could have easily gotten lost in all the hoopla, what with special guests Mark Wahlberg, Oliver Stone, Josh Brolin, Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey, but the presence of the Republican vice-presidential candidate ensured a monster audience, and Adele’s performance of her songs “Chasing Pavements” and “Cold Shoulder” proved to be a star-making moment.
Not that Adele is ready to endorse the Alaska governor should she run for higher office.
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“I did meet Palin, but I didn’t want to,” said Adele, 20, in a recent phone conversation. “I was avoiding it. But she did come up and say hello, and she was perfectly nice. I had a big Obama pin on.
“She wasn’t even meant to be on the week I was on,” Adele continued, “so the whole thing was totally unexpected. We don’t get ‘SNL’ in England, so I didn’t realize how big it was. When I woke up the morning after the show, ’19’ was No. 15 on iTunes. By the time I got on the plane it was No. 8, and when we landed at home it was No. 1.”
With her sultry contralto and understated delivery, Adele has been remarkably successful at staying in the spotlight since last fall. Many of the U.S. dates on her 2009 tour have sold out, including tonight’s show at Neumo’s, with fellow Brit James Morrison.
Adele’s song “Hometown Glory” has been featured widely on American and U.K. television shows, including “Skins,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Secret Diary of a Call Girl.” And she’s up for four Grammy Awards next month, including Best New Artist, and Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for “Chasing Pavements.”
“I’m very excited about the Grammys,” Adele said. “I’m trying not to faint. If I win it will be really awkward. The BBC tried to say that I didn’t want to win, but believe me, I want a Grammy.”
Musically inclined from a young age, Adele experienced a soul epiphany when she heard the music of Etta James (no, she hasn’t seen “Cadillac Records” yet; it’s not out in the U.K.). She bought two James albums because she was looking for new hairdo ideas, and she liked James’ big, blond upswept look. When she gave the discs a spin, she was smitten. (Coincidentally, James plays Seattle this week, too, at the Paramount Theatre Wednesday night.)
Unlike some of her British soul-loving peers who’ve become headline fodder lately, Adele hasn’t followed some of James’ self-destructive ways. Adele’s introspective bent as a singer-songwriter probably helps. She does cover Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love” on “19,” but Adele puts most of her creative energy into songwriting.
“I’m not very good with speaking about how I’m feeling, and writing songs is one way to express it, to tell people if I’m falling in love or falling out of love,” she said. “I want to be a singer-songwriter, I don’t want to sing other people’s songs. It’s not me being snobby. I think eventually I can be a really good songwriter, and I hope other people cover my songs.”
Andrew Gilbert: firstname.lastname@example.org