The true voice of America - Adele from Tottenham

Sunday Times, London, England, Feb. 19, 2012: p3 With her armload of six trophies, Adele was the golden girl of the Grammys last weekend, matching Beyonce's record for the most awards received by a female artist in one night. Adele's performance of Rolling in the Deep, which won Grammys for record of the year and song of the year, triggered one of the biggest, loudest standing ovations in the history of award shows. Normally a tribute of that kind would be reserved for fabled figures brought out of mothballs to be honoured for their lifetime achievement. It is astonishing that this response was accorded to an affable, unassuming 23-year-old woman who was born in Tottenham, north London. The high emotion was intensified by anxiety and suspense: this was Adele's first public performance since a benign polyp was excised from her vocal cords in November. Furthermore, there was surging momentum from the death of Whitney Houston the previous day. With her subdued dress, appealingly modest demeanour and empathic vocal delivery, Adele was in total sync with a crowd swaying between grief and joy. Lady Gaga, in contrast, bizarrely costumed with a tight veil and pretentious gold sceptre, looked repellently egotistical. Her boorish kissing of Paul McCartney, who mugged surprised discomfort to the camera, was a crass publicity stunt. Gaga, who won nothing and did not perform, was flattened by the Adele juggernaut. Award shows have become so numerous and generic that they rarely have much impact. For a parallel to Adele's triumph at the Grammys, one would have to go all the way back to Elizabeth Taylor winning the Oscar for best actress for Butterfield 8 in 1961. Taylor had atoned for her reputation as a heartless vamp (for stealing Eddie Fisher from Debbie Reynolds) by nearly dying in London, where an episode of pneumonia had led to an emergency tracheotomy. As Taylor whisperingly accepted her award, the scar was freshly visible on her neck. Strangely, the dual themes of throat surgery and death recurred on Adele's big night. Partly energising the audience's response to Adele's performance was its subliminal recognition that Rolling in the Deep (co-written and produced by Paul

Camille Paglia

thunderous climax. At the Grammys Adele was a revelation. bringing back to America one of our authentic native genres: the spiritual power and purity of the unadorned human voice. effervescent working-class girl like Adele was when Lynn Redgrave appeared in the film Georgy Girl in 1966. The first time we got a good look at her was in a television interview on the weekend of the Grammys. with its hand-clapping and footstomping. scrappy. originating in 19th-century negro spirituals. the "call and response" format that has been traced from field songs under slavery all the way back to west African communal ritual. Given her melancholic motifs. the urban jazz sophistication of Billie Holiday and Lena Horne.Epworth) belongs to the magnificent tradition of African-American music that produced Houston. and so the last time Americans saw a hearty. Accepting her awards. now dominates the American music market. robotic AutoTune and technical gimmickry. spunky. along with a defiant touch of Native American war drums. a pastiche of piratical sampling. Americans had no idea who Adele was or what she was like. To universal amazement she turned out to be a bubbly. she charmed everyone with her warmth. Despite her saturation of our airwaves for the past year. is wonderfully captured in Rolling in the Deep. despite her rapid and sometimes incomprehensible (to us) London accent. typified by Bessie Smith. The Spice Girls never gained traction in America. As an agonised torch song. Black gospel music. Rolling in the Deep also evokes the subsequent phase in musical style. Rolling in the Deep recapitulates the entire history of black music. with its commenting background voices. We hear the percussive accents of early rural Southern blues. vitality and deftly economical thanks. one feared she might well be a morbid mope. which was Madonna's domain. 2 . which began with rap and break dancing in the 1970s. impishly self-satirising bundle of energy. From its opening raw guitar strum to its soaring. It is a style that has conquered the world and become the idiom of political dissidents everywhere. Many Americans stereotype Brits as theatrical swells with posh accents. But it can too often become forced and mechanical. Next is Adele's incarnation as a voluptuous belter in the "big mama" style of rowdy roadhouse blues. It wasn't just the live audience who leapt to their feet and shouted in ecstasy: it was music-loving television viewers from coast to coast. Hip-hop. Thus Adele is doing path-breaking work as a cultural ambassador.

Adele has set a new standard for young artists by humbly returning to the richness of the past.As a career teacher at art schools. Camille Paglia is a professor of humanities and media studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia 3 . obscenely costly stage routines that a singer can reach a worldwide audience with simple emotional truth. With her womanly dignity and her primal imagery of ocean. rain and fire. I bless Adele for the example she has set for aspiring artists in any field. She has shown in this age of glitzy image-making and frenetic.