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Rolling Stone is an American magazine devoted to music, popular culture and politics that is published bi-weekly. It was founded in San Francisco in 1967 by Jann Wenner, its current editor and publisher, and music critic Ralph J. Gleason

Adele has appeared in the magazine multiple times and has been featured on its cover five times — four times on the American edition and once on the Brazilian edition. 

2011[]

On April 28, 2011, Adele covered the American edition of Rolling Stone for their special “Best of Rock 2011” issue. The cover was photographed by Simon Emmett, and the interview and article were done by Touré.[1]

“Aw, Louis!” Adele groans. “Don’t roll in the shit!” It‘s Saturday, around 2 p.m., and she’s zipping through a small park along Alster Lake in Hamburg, Germany, yanking the leash of her constant companion, a two-year-old wiener dachshund, Louis Armstrong.

It’s only a few days into Adele’s European tour, but she’s a bit out of sorts. We have descended from the penthouse bar of her hotel, where she drank two mini carafes of red wine. Now she’s feeling “fluffy.” “It’s gone straight to my head!” she says. She’s not wearing any makeup, and her dirty-blond hair is pulled back in a messy knot.

In a year of sex bombs and art projects on the pop charts, the biggest surprise hit of 2011 is a breakup LP that could have been recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama – the work of an earthy, full-figured 22-year-old whose go-to outfits are billowy turtleneck sweaters. (She’s wearing a black one today, which she calls “my shield, my comfort,” along with black leggings and leopard-print ballet flats.)

Adele’s second album, 21, debuted at Number One in the U.K. and U.S., and has sold 3.5 million overall, a development she calls “pretty intense.” She recently started smoking again – she claims she’s back to only seven cigarettes a day, but over a few hours, she smokes at least that.

To compound matters this week, her father, Mark Evans – a recovering alcoholic who left Adele’s mother and her when she was three – sold a story to the U.K. tabloid The Sun, telling them that he felt guilty about not being there for Adele when she was growing up. Adele’s eyes narrow when she talks about the story. “I never knew my dad,” she says. “He has no fuckin’ right to talk about me.” The day after her dad’s story, another one appeared, this time about Adele’s childhood; the reporter had ambushed her grandmother at a bus stop for an interview. “That’s when I started smoking again,” Adele says.

Adele has one of the great voices of the past few years – a mix of soul power, tender sweetness and scary emotional transparency. Songs like “Someone Like You” – in which she says goodbye to an ex-boyfriend who has married – are messy, conflicted, sometimes explosive. “All of her songs are based on real events and real people,” says her bassist, Sam Dixon. “It can be hard for her to sing them; that’s happened a few times now.” At the Brit Awards in February, she was close to tears at the end of her performance of “Someone” and had to turn away from the cameras. “It’s not a pose or a stance,” says Rick Rubin, who produced four of 21’s songs. “When you hear someone bare their soul, it resonates.”

In person, Adele is just as unguarded. Walking through the park, she tells of once going onstage with “a tampon on my thumb. It was awful!” She says it was to cover up a broken nail. (“You make it hollow and put it on your finger. I do it all the time.”) She talks fast, uses different voices, tells filthy jokes onstage (“What do you call a blonde standing on her head? A brunette with bad breath.”) She cops to signing up for an Internet dating service last year. “I was drunk, upset and listening to Sinéad O’Connor’s ‘Nothing Compares 2 U.'” (She quit after trying it once.)

She loves shock rappers Odd Future. “They’re refreshing,” she says, but “my fans weren’t happy when I posted their video on my blog.” (Sample line: “I’ll stab Bruno Mars in his goddamn esophagus.”) Lil’ Kim once heard a rap of hers:.”She said I was nasty!”

Adele Laurie Blue Adkins was born in Tottenham, a north London district with some of the highest unemployment in the U.K. Her mother, Penny, was in her teens; she worked as a masseuse, a furniture-maker and an office administrator, and they moved a lot, often living in government-subsidized housing. Adele “loved moving,” she claims. “I think that’s why I can’t stay in one place now. I don’t think of my childhood like, ‘Oh, I went to 10 different schools.’ My mum always made it fun.”

Her mother is still her closest friend, and current roommate. Adele credits her with turning her on to Mary J. Blige, Lauryn Hill and Alicia Keys – she calls The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and Songs in A Minor “life-defining.” The other big influence was Etta James, whose music she discovered in the bargain bin of a record store. “She was the first time a voice made me stop what I was doing and sit down and listen. It took over my mind and body.”

As a child, Adele loved singing and playing guitar and clarinet; by 14, she was impressive enough to successfully audition for London’s BRIT School, a public performing-arts high school that artists such as Amy Winehouse, Leona Lewis and Kate Nash also attended. “It was like Fame,” she says. “There were kids doing pirouettes in the fuckin’ hallway and doing mime and having sing-offs in the foyer.” Her classmate and current guitarist, Ben Thomas, says Adele never seemed driven to get into the music business. “There were some people at school who really pushed hard,” Thomas says. “You could tell they really wanted it. Adele never really had that. But she was a great performer and everyone would be completely silent and in awe when she performed.”

She almost got kicked out because she had issues with punctuality. “I’d turn up to school four hours late,” she says. “I was sleeping. I wasn’t doing anything. I wasn’t bunking, I just couldn’t wake up.” One, day, a group of teachers selected 20 of the most promising students to go on a trip to Devon to perform at a festival, and Adele overslept. The moment she opened her eyes and realized she was too late, she says, “My heart exploded in my chest. It was pretty horrible. I almost did get kicked out of the school for that. But now I’m always on time, and if I’m late it’s always someone else’s fault.”

In her last year at BRIT, a friend posted on MySpace a three-song demo that Adele had recorded for a class. Several labels e-mailed, asking to meet her. She was unimpressed. “I thought it was some dirty Internet pervert,” she says. “I saw there were e-mails from Island and XL, but I’d never heard of them so I didn’t call them back.” Finally, at the urging of her mother, she met with an A&R guy from XL – the indie-label home of M.I.A. – who signed her nearly on the spot.

Adele’s 2008 debut, 19, was a modest success in America – it debuted at Number 56 on the album chart and then dropped – until she landed a spot performing on Saturday Night Live, in the middle of the 2008 presidential campaign, on the night that Sarah Palin appeared on the show. “I was sitting in my dressing room having my makeup done,” she says, “and I thought, ‘If you nail this, this could be one of those moments in a career.’ ” More than 14 million people watched as Adele performed “Chasing Pavements” and “Cold Shoulder.” “When we did the performance on SNL, we were at Number 40 on iTunes,” says her manager, Jonathan Dickins. “The following morning, we were at Number Eight. When I got off the plane in London, we were at Number One.” She would go on to win Grammys for Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

It was around this time that she met the guy who would become the inspiration for 21. He was 10 years older than her, and he got her interested in traveling, reading fiction like Zadie Smith’s White Teeth and writing poetry. “He made me an adult. He put me on the road that I’m traveling on,” Adele says. “Most of my life was my career, but I had this little side project that was us. And it made me feel really normal again, which is just what I needed. Because I was becoming a bit doo-lally – a bit fuckin’ crazy.”

They lived together for almost a year at her place in London before things started to fizzle. “It just stopped being fun,” she says. He was artistic, “but not romantic. He never took me to Italy. I took him to Italy.” She laughs. “I booked it all and took us to a nice hotel in Milan.”

Toward the end, “We’d just bicker over a cup of tea or the fact that my lighter wasn’t working.” Her friends were happy to see him go. “They all thought he was shitty,” she says. “All my friends, everyone I worked with, no one liked him, because I acted different when I was around him.”

The morning after things officially ended, she was in the studio, sobbing while making “Rolling in the Deep.” Paul Epworth, who produced that song, says, “She was obviously quite fragile and very open about what had happened. But she had fire in her belly.” Midway through the album, she found out her ex was engaged. “I was absolutely devastated.” She hasn’t seen anyone since it ended. “I’m not ready to,” she says softly. “I think I’m a bit flimsy right now. I’m not in love with him, but I love him still, ya know?”

“I have the shakes,” says Adele. It’s 7:30 p.m. and she’s in the basement dressing room of a 1,200-capacity club near Hamburg’s red-light district, wearing the same black turtle-neck sweater. She’s been drinking coffee with Louis on her lap and smoking another cigarette. As always, she’s got some stage fright. “I’m scared of audiences,” she says. “I get shitty scared. One show in Amsterdam, I was so nervous I escaped out the fire exit. I’ve thrown up a couple of times. Once in Brussels, I projectile-vomited on someone. I just gotta bear it. But I don’t like touring. I have anxiety attacks a lot.”

How does she get herself onstage? “I just think that nothing’s ever gone horrifically wrong,” she says. “Also, when I get nervous, I try to bust jokes. It does work. I chat a lot of fucking shit, though.” For most people who get stage fright, the nerves go away once the show starts, but for Adele, things get worse. “My nerves don’t really settle until I’m offstage,” she says. “I mean, the thought of someone spending $20 to come and see me and saying ‘Oh, I prefer the record and she’s completely shattered the illusion’ really upsets me. It’s such a big deal that people come give me their time.”

She also has an alter ego she uses to pump herself up, called Sasha Carter – a composite of Beyoncé’s Sasha Fierce and June Carter. “I was about to meet Beyoncé,” she says, “and I had a full-blown anxiety attack. Then she popped in looking gorgeous, and said, ‘You’re amazing! When I listen to you I feel like I’m listening to God.’ Can you believe she said that?” Later, “I went out on the balcony crying hysterically, and I said, ‘What would Sasha Fierce do?’ That’s when Sasha Carter was born.”

One thing that Adele says she isn’t anxious about is her weight. It’s fluctuated throughout her life, but she says she doesn’t diet or work out. “My life is full of drama, and I don’t have time to worry about something as petty as what I look like,” she says. “I don’t like going to the gym. I like eating fine foods and drinking nice wine. Even if I had a really good figure, I don’t think I’d get my tits and ass out for no one. I love seeing Lady Gaga’s boobs and bum. I love seeing Katy Perry’s boobs and bum. Love it. But that’s not what my music is about. I don’t make music for eyes, I make music for ears.”

She leans down to Louis and holds out a treat. “Lady Gaga!” she commands. “Put your paws up!” He sits up on his legs with his paws up. The topic turns to Mumford & Sons, whom she loves. “They’re closer to how I feel about Etta James than anyone,” she says. “Such articulate voices.”

At 8:40 p.m., Adele stubs out her cigarette and stops playing with Louis, stands on the edge of the stage and begins singing “Hometown Glory,” a gentle love letter to London from 19. The audience can hear but not see her. Soon she takes her place on the wooden stool at center stage. With English-language audiences, Adele can be “Bette Midler funny,” but tonight she focuses on the songs, sometimes singing with a hand in the pocket of her jumper. She runs through songs from both her albums and a cover, “If It Hadn’t Been for Love,” by a Nashville band called the Steel-drivers. She introduces it by saying, “It’s a song about shooting your wife. And I feel like shooting my ex.”

In between songs, Adele tells the crowd, “My dog is on tour with me. He’s a dachshund. I have a German dog! He loves it here. He’s in the homeland!” There’s a sprinkling of laughs in the audience. She closes with a loud, powerful, stomping “Rolling in the Deep,” and even though she walks off and the lights come on and someone else’s music starts playing from the house speakers, the crowd just stands there. They cheer, clap and chant her name, but she’s done. “Always leave them wanting more,” she says in the dressing room, cigarette in hand, wine nearby, Louis on her lap. “That was an emotional show!”

With the show behind her, Adele is finally at ease. She jokes about what would happen if she were in a happy relationship. “No music!” she says. “My fans will be like, ‘Babe! Please! Get divorced!'”

She laughs. “Don’t worry. My bubble always fuckin’ bursts.”

2012[]

In 2012, Adele again covered the American edition of Rolling Stone, this time for their “Women Who Rock 2012” issue. The cover was again photographed by Simon Emmett. The article was written by David Browne and covered the success of Adele’s sophomore album, 21.[2] The issue was released internationally on October 11, 2012; however, the Brazilian edition was not released until nearly two months later, on December 14.[3][4]

“I wanna do something mean!” said Adele. It was the day after the 2010 Grammys; she hadn’t been up for any awards the night before, but that hadn’t stopped her from “celebrating.” She showed up at a Hollywood studio hung over and “pissed off,” in the words of OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder, her collaborator that day – grumbling about the way her girlfriends were talking about her based on what they’d read in the tabloids. “My friends all read gossip shit, and they’re like, ‘I heard you’re going out with blah blah,’ and I haven’t even met these people,” she told Rolling Stone last year. “It’s bullshit.”

“She wanted to stir things up,” says Tedder, who began playing a guitar part inspired by Jonny Greenwood’s riff on Radiohead‘s “I Might Be Wrong.” The phrase “rumor has it” sprang up, and before long, they had the basis of a stomping, pissy song. When they started recording the next day, Adele – still recovering from her Grammy partying – couldn’t hit her usual high notes, but still managed to nail the vocal in one take. A disbelieving Tedder turned to the engineer:

“Umm, did I hear that right?” he asked. “Did she miss a note?” Adele piped in: “Is that good? I can do it again.” “Adele, I’ve never had this happen before,” said Tedder. “She didn’t warm up at all,” he remembers. “Her warming up is her talking, laughing and cackling.”

As Tedder and many others have learned, Adele, 24, routinely dismantles what it means to be a modern pop star. She smoked and drank her way through recording sessions – half a pack a day, by her own count, during the making of her massive album 21. She talks openly to the press about her private life, weight issues and love of a good drink. She’ll record an entire album with one of the biggest producers in the business, who also happened to run her label at the time – then ditch most of it and opt for much rawer early takes. She turns down offers to plaster her name on products or play superlucrative gigs for the one percent. On tour, she simply stands and sings – no Auto-Tune to help correct her voice, no choreography with backup dancers.

“She’s got this very much fuck-you attitude,” admits Adele’s manager, Jonathan Dickins, who’s been working with her since 2006. (Once, when she was cut off while accepting a Brit Award, she flipped off the organizers.) In the meantime, Adele’s career has only exploded. 21 has now sold more than 9.7 million copies, spending more weeks in the Top 10 than Thriller. By the end of the year, it will most likely hit 10 million, which only about 100 other albums in history have accomplished. (By Eighties or Nineties standards, 21 would probably have sold nearly 20 million copies, akin to Whitney Houston‘s Bodyguard soundtrack, according to chart analyst Joel Whitburn.) 21 has also produced three Number One singles and garnered six Grammys, including Album, Record and Song of the Year. It’s even single-handedly propping up the CD, since about three-fourths of 21’s sales are in that format.

She is beloved by everyone from lovelorn teenagers to Outkast’s Andre Benjamin, who gave props to Adele’s massive ballad hit “Someone Like You” in his verse on Drake’s “The Real Her.” “I listened to ‘Someone Like You’ on repeat for at least a week,” Benjamin says. “She perfectly captured the weird limbo space of a breakup.” Even the Queen of Soul herself is a fan: “It’s been a long time since an artist like Adele has come along,” says Aretha Franklin. “Carole King is the last person who wrote the kind of lyrics women immediately could relate to. I love to hear a schoolgirl on the school bus yellin’, ‘We coulda had it alll!'”

“Every generation needs one of her,” says Tedder. “We didn’t have one, and now we do.” Adele has rewritten some of the rules of the business – for one, killing off the melisma overload of the past decade. (Adele also claims she cut a rap so “nasty” it made Lil’ Kim blanch.) One exec who’s worked with Adele refers to her as “the punk-rock Barbra Streisand.” She’s something we’ve been wanting for a long time: a pop diva with a rock & roll heart.

Adele was already a star when she started recording 21 two and a half years ago. The child of a broken home whose alcoholic father left her and her mother when Adele was three, she attended the BRIT school outside London (similar to Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School in New York, which inspired Fame), where her music teacher would often see her “sitting in an alcove with a hardback book, writing lyrics.” She landed a deal with XL Records in 2006 after a friend posted one of her class-assignment demos on MySpace. (She was so young that Nick Huggett, the A&R man who signed her to the label, remembers picking her and a friend up at a London tube station for her first meeting.) Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine shared a bill with Adele at a small London club when both were launching their careers. “She was there with her bass guitar and this incredible voice,” Welch recalls. “Already, that voice. Something changed in the room when she started singing. That was an amazing moment, seeing her.”

Adele’s powerful instrument was showcased on her debut, 19, released in early 2008. A tasteful set of unplugged folk pop and British soul (the latter provoking comparisons to Amy Winehouse), the album largely chronicled an early romantic breakup and was the work of a girl who was “full of life, a normal London girl,” says Jim Abbiss, one of its producers. Although 19 wasn’t a blockbuster hit in the U.S., it landed her on Saturday Night Live (and one of its songs on Grey’s Anatomy), and she walked away with two Grammys the following year. At the ceremony, she was so overcome with emotion that she started sobbing; Neil Diamond, standing nearby, gave her a comforting hug (and began sending her notes by way of their mutual label, Columbia, “to give her a little encouragement,” he says).

The second album was going to be different. On tour in the States to promote 19, Adele had been introduced to American roots music thanks to her Nashville bus driver (who asked her if she’d ever heard of Garth Brooks and was shocked to hear she hadn’t). The new album would be tougher, more rhythmic and ballsier than 19. “You listen to the radio here and you realize tempo is important,” says Columbia co-chairman Steve Barnett of his conversations with Adele during this time.

Adele began meeting with outside songwriters, including Tedder, British producer Paul Epworth (whose resume by then included Babyshambles and Bloc Party) and ex-Semisonic frontman Dan Wilson. The plan called for all of them to write songs, record rough demos and then have Rick Rubin, who was then co-head of Columbia, produce finished versions. The sessions couldn’t come fast enough. “I didn’t have to keep having these A&R meetings about ‘what direction do I want to go in’ and ‘what’s the next step for a Grammy Award-winning artist?'” she told RS. “I got to just kinda get on with it, and I didn’t overthink it.”

Almost from the start, emotions ran high. At Epworth’s own studio in northwest London (“A cupboard with speakers,” he says), Adele arrived distraught: She’d just broken up with her boyfriend, a photographer named Alex Sturrock who was almost a decade older than her. Epworth played some “jazzy piano chords,” and after listening for an hour, Adele broke into what became the verses of “Rolling in the Deep.” “My favorite songs are like, ‘Get the fuck out of my face,’ and he wanted me to have my own song like that,” she recalls. In a few hours, they’d written and recorded an early version of “Rolling in the Deep” – a phrase, she says, that means “always having someone have your back, always rolling with someone, never get hurt, never get in trouble because you always got someone to back you up.” Around the same time, U.K.-pop producer Fraser T. Smith laid down a sweeping, piano-fueled demo of another new song, “Set Fire to the Rain.” (Adele told Smith the title was inspired by the time she’d had one last fight with her boyfriend and stood outside in a downpour fruitlessly trying to light a cigarette.) The producers were told not to work too much on their songs, since Rubin would handle the final takes in California.

Meeting for the first time with Wilson in a cozy Los Angeles studio, Adele began raving about Wanda Jackson – the spunky rockabilly queen whose career was later resurrected by Jack White – and playing Wilson some of Jackson’s music on her computer. Getting down to business, Adele, swathed in a “sweater-y scarf-wrap knit thing,” began telling Wilson about her breakup. “I didn’t pry for details,” Wilson says. “I didn’t ask his name. But most of the things we talked about ended up in the lyrics. It feels like it’s all there.” She went out for a cigarette break “about every 25 minutes,” Wilson says with a laugh. The completed song was “Someone Like You,” her bittersweet kiss-off to her lover. By the end of their second working day together, the two had cut a raw voice-and-piano take on the song; the schedule was so tight that Adele had to rush off to a meeting with label execs.

For Adele, the sessions were cathartic. “We broke up mutually, and I was desperate to write about it,” she says, “’cause I can’t talk about my feelings to anyone. To my mum, to my therapist, to friends, to myself in the mirror – I can’t really do it. I’ve always written down how I feel.”

Finally, in the spring of 2010, Adele, Rubin and Rubin’s handpicked crew of musicians – including Roots keyboardist James Poyser and guitarist Matt Sweeney (Zwan, Chavez) – converged at a Malibu studio to record Adele’s fresh material. Over the course of two weeks, they cut versions of most of the songs, including a gospel-tinged take on “Someone Like You.” Laughing, chatty and smoking during breaks, Adele bore down on her singing when it came time to record. “The first time we did ‘Rolling in the Deep,’ I had to check to make sure it was really her I was hearing coming through my headphones,” says former Beck guitarist Smokey Hormel, also part of the band. “It sounded like a record as soon as it came out of her mouth. It sounded so perfect. And every time she went back in to do it again, her performance was even better. You’d think, ‘What the hell?'” (They also recorded a cover of the Cure‘s “Lovesong,” which Rubin had originally conceived for a possible Barbra Streisand project.)

The album should have been done – but it wasn’t, at least in Adele’s mind. Listening to the Rubin tracks, she felt something was missing: the exposed-nerve emotional edge heard in the early versions of “Rolling in the Deep,” “Someone Like You,” “Rumour Has It” and “Set Fire to the Rain.” “It’s hard to re-create that emotion nine months later,” says Epworth. In the end, she made a tough choice: to scrap most of the Rubin sessions, only using four of them, and replace them with the earlier takes. “It took a lot of guts,” says Abbiss, who received a call from Adele after her work with Rubin. “She wanted to try to recapture a simplicity from the first time around.” They cut “Take It All” and “Turning Tables” in less than a week, on deadline.

Rubin admits to being somewhat taken aback by Adele’s decision. “I was surprised because she had been so clear about wanting it to sound like it came from one place,” he says. “She wanted it to have a consistent band feel so that from track to track, it would sound like the same group of people in the same place – a unified album. I also understood she had been listening to some of the demos for a long time, and that when that familiarity builds, sometimes that trumps all.” Rubin compares the situation to his first experience recording with Johnny Cash. “We recorded demos over a long period of time, then tried recording the songs several different ways,” he recalls of that album, “but in the end, we decided to release the demos as the album.” 21 sounds unified anyway: a nearly perfectly produced and arranged album, gliding back and forth between huffy indignation and tenderness, gossamer piano ballads and retro R&B, wailing beats and bare-boned intimacy.

Dickins says Adele was especially protective of “Someone Like You.” “That was a very conscious decision by Adele,” he says. “She was absolutely adamant, more than anybody else, that the song be stripped down.” Columbia CEO Rob Stringer and Barnett didn’t hear any of 21 until the finished album was played for them. While listening to the record in Dickins’ home, Adele’s dog Louis kept leaping over Stringer. If Stringer had listened closely, he might have also heard Louis – according to Smith, the dachshund was howling on Adele’s lap in the studio throughout “Set Fire to the Rain.”

As soon as 21 wrapped up in the summer of 2010, Adele and Sony went to work making sure it had maximum buzz. At an industry show in Los Angeles, she sang a few of the new songs to an audience that included Zach Galifianakis and movie licensing execs – one of whom chose “Rolling in the Deep” for the trailer for I Am Number Four, which introduced the song to U.S. audiences in a big way. With its earthy roar and primal stomp – Epworth says Adele was pounding on a wooden step with her Chanel pumps in his studio – “Rolling in the Deep” connected with listeners at an almost unheard-of pace. “When we tested it, within 10 seconds, people loved the song,” says JB Wilde, former program director of the Atlanta dance-pop station Wild 105.7. “Usually it takes a song a few hundred spins to become familiar with the audience.” Thanks to that initial single, 21 sold 352,000 copies its first week of release, in February 2011.

Everyone knows what came next: Number One singles, awards, rapturously received sellout shows and pop ubiquity, including a hilarious viral “Shit Adele Says” clip that brilliantly satirized her pop-working-girl image. A year-plus after its release, 21 is still moving about 20,000 copies a week; other albums released around the same time, like by Avril Lavigne, Britney Spears and R.E.M., have long disappeared from the charts. After a decade of female pop-star glam, Adele brought the idea of a diva back down to recognizable, accessible earth. Fans didn’t simply relate to the torn-up emotions in her songs; they related to an unapologetic midsize girl who chatted up her audience onstage between tunes and mocked her own semifrumpiness. “I can’t dance to save my life,” she cheerfully told a New York crowd. “It sounds authentic coming out of her,” says Santigold, who has covered the 19 ballad “Hometown Glory.”

“I read an interesting thing: ‘Would Adele be as successful if she wasn’t plus-sized?'” Adele ruminated to Rolling Stone, reflecting on the attention sometimes given to her figure. “I don’t know if I would be. I tried going to the gym. I don’t like it. I like eating fine foods and drinking nice wine. But even if I had a really good figure I don’t think I’d get my tits and ass out for no one. I don’t rely on my figure to sell records.”

Perhaps despite herself, Adele’s life has been perfect fodder for a tabloid age. Starting with 19, which detailed the rise and fall of a previous relationship, she lived out her life in song. Her ups and downs – her breakup, her vocal-cord problems, her issues with her father, who sold his own story to the tabloids – turned her into a walking-talking reality show. “I’m a drama queen,” she told Rolling Stone, and indeed her life in the past few years has had as much tumult as a VH1 reality series. “People have this feeling she’s telling it to them straight,” says Wilson. “You’re going to get a journalistic report from where she’s at in life.”

At the same time, Adele has been almost MIA for a star of her magnitude -she hasn’t plastered herself all over TV or toured nonstop. Some of that absence is for medical reasons: Thanks to the vocal-cord hemorrhage that forced her to undergo surgery last fall, she canceled a major U.S. tour in 2011. A potential 2012 tour was derailed after she and her boyfriend, Simon Konecki, a co-founder of the British charity Drop4Drop, announced this summer that she was pregnant. Her manager and label also decided they didn’t want to oversaturate the market, so they made only two videos for 21 and avoided appearances on American Idol and its ilk.

Intentional or not, Adele’s relative absence has created something rare in pop in the 21st century: a sense of mystique and a focus on the music. Years ago, especially in the pre-Internet era, pop stars weren’t in our faces on an hourly basis. We didn’t see them in commercials or television shows or in grainy TMZ clips. We knew what they looked like, but we related to them largely for their songs and records. Adele harks back to those days, and not merely with her Dusty Springfield bouffant. “She knows less is more,” Stringer says, adding with a slight sigh, “We’ve lost our sense of aura, like we had 30 or 40 years ago. It’s gratifying to know we can get across to people with just the power of music.”

Adele’s air of mystery may continue whether she wants it to or not. By the end of the year, she’ll have a baby, and everything else will come to a halt for a while. Dickins says Adele might be working on new material at home, but the manager can’t say for sure. Epworth met with her in London a few weeks ago and came away with the impression that making a new album isn’t exactly high on her priority list. “I get the feeling she’s not in the head space about making music at the moment,” he says. Tedder has sent her a few new ideas for songs but isn’t sure what will come of them, either. (At press time, Adele was rumored to be singing the theme song to the upcoming James Bond film, Skyfall, but a representative at Sony says such stories are “speculation.”)

In other words, the follow-up to one of the biggest albums in recent memory will have to wait – Dickins expects at least until 2014 – during a social-media-driven time when long gaps between albums are viewed as career suicide. “She decides when and where,” says Sony’s Barnett as cheerfully as he can. “And that’s her call.” For the moment, Adele isn’t commenting, but consider what she told RS last year: “I’m really happy to be me, and I’d like to think people like me more because I’m happy with myself and not because I refuse to conform to anything.” All of which sounds pretty punk rock.

2015[]

Adele covered Rolling Stone once again in 2015. She shared the cover on her social media accounts on November 3, 2015, and the issue was officially released on November 19.[5] The cover was photographed by Theo Wenner.[6]

As Adele steers through a South London high street in her four-door Mini Cooper, with her toddler’s vacant car seat in back and the remains of a kale, cucumber and almond-milk concoction in the cup holder, a question occurs to her. “What’s been going on in the world of music?” she asks, in all sincerity. “I feel out of the loop!”

The only possible response is way too easy: Well, there’s this one album the entire industry is waiting for…

“Oh, fuck off!” Adele says, giving me a gentle shove and letting loose the charmingly untamed laugh — an ascending cascade of forceful, cartoonish “ha‘s” — that inspired a YouTube supercut called “The Adele Cackle.”

“Oh, my God, imagine,” she continues, green eyes widening. “I wish! I feel like I might be a year too late.” It’s as if her last album, 2011’s 21, hadn’t sold a miraculous 31 million copies worldwide in an era when no one buys music, as if it hadn’t sparked the adoration of peers from Beyoncé to Aretha, as if it hadn’t won every conceivable award short of a Nobel Peace Prize.

“But genuinely,” she says, “I’ve lost touch with music. Not, like, all music” — she’s a fan of FKA Twigs, loves Alabama Shakes, snuck into the crowd at Glastonbury to see Kanye — “but I feel like I don’t know what’s going on in the charts and in popular culture.” She laughs again. “I’ve not lost touch with, like, reality. Just with what’s current.” Her Cockney accent is softening lately, but she still pronounces “with” like it ends with a “v.”

She’s driving under a sky that is gray and dismal even by the standards of early October London afternoons. Rain is coming, threatening Adele’s plans to take her three-year-old son, Angelo, to the zoo later. No one in the passing vehicles recognizes her. They never do, not in this car. “Maybe if I went out in full, done-up, hair-and-makeup drag,” she says. “Which it is: borderline drag! I’m not brave enough to do it.” Instead, she’s dressed like a grad student who barely got up in time for class, in a drapey blue-black sweater made of some hemplike fabric — it could almost be from Kanye’s dystopian fashion collection — over black leggings and white low-top Converse. Her golden hair is gathered in a loose bun, and she’s wearing twin hoop earrings in each ear. Her makeup is minimal, and though she claims to be developing a wrinkle or two, she looks strikingly young, with a clotted-cream complexion worthy of the cosmetics endorsements she’s turned down.

Adele is fresh from a rehearsal with her backing band, where she perched on a chair facing the musicians and sang her first-ever live version of “Hello,” the melancholy, surging first single from her third album, 25, due November 20th. (She turned 27 in May, but named the album after the age when she began work on it: “I’m going to get so much fucking grief: ‘Why is it called 25 when you’re not 25?'”) “Hello, it’s me,” she sings at the beginning of the single, as if there could be any doubt. When she finally puts the song out a couple of weeks later, it will rack up a record-setting 50 million YouTube views in its first 48 hours.

With a young child to raise, Adele took an unhurried approach to making the album. A full six months passed between writing the verses of “Hello” and nailing the chorus. “We had half a song written,” says producer/co-writer Greg Kurstin, who didn’t know if Adele was ever going to come back and finish it. “I just had to be very patient.”

The lyrics sound like she’s addressing some long-lost ex, but she says it isn’t about any one person — and that she’s moved on from the heartbreaker who inspired 21. “If I were still writing about him, that’d be terrible,” she says. “‘Hello’ is as much about regrouping with myself, reconnecting with myself.” As for the line “hello from the other side”: “It sounds a bit morbid, like I’m dead,” she says. “But it’s actually just from the other side of becoming an adult, making it out alive from your late teens, early twenties.”

Adele still hasn’t decided whether she’ll do a full-scale tour behind 25 — right now, the rehearsals are for TV performances. Her band has a few new members, and she’s especially excited to have a percussionist for the first time, an addition inspired by her childhood idols: “The Spice Girls had a mad percussionist,” she says.

In public, at least, Adele has had little to say — and nothing to sing — for the past couple of years, not since she and collaborator Paul Epworth won an Oscar for “Skyfall,” the first decent James Bond theme song in forever. “When I have nothing to say,” she says, “I’d rather just not talk.” But it takes just a few minutes with her to see that silence isn’t exactly her natural state. “I’m just fucking waiting for Frank fucking Ocean to come out with his album,” she says. “It’s taking so fucking long.” She blinks, pauses, laughs again. “That sounds so stupid, coming from me, doesn’t it?”

On some level, Adele refuses to allow her success to make it too deeply past her skin. She still sees herself as “some random girl from London,” albeit one whose little car needs to be trailed by a bodyguard in a Range Rover. With the throwback classicism of its songwriting and its almost militantly organic arrangements, 21 stood to the side of the pop mainstream, even as it somehow outsold everything. Adele is trying to pull off a similar trick with her career itself. “My career’s not my life,” she says. “It’s my hobby.” She wants to be able to release her albums, live in public for a while, and then return to her private existence — for years at a time, maybe, so she can live enough to write the next set of songs. “I think she’ll make 20 records,” says her manager, Jonathan Dickins. “We’re playing for the long game.”

“People think I hate being famous,” Adele says. “And I don’t. I’m really frightened of it. I think it’s really toxic, and I think it’s really easy to be dragged into it.” Early in her career, she faced frequent musical comparisons to Amy Winehouse, whom she met only a few times: “Watching Amy deteriorate is one of the reasons I’m a bit frightened. We were all very entertained by her being a mess. I was fucking sad about it, but if someone showed me a picture of her looking bad, I’d look at it. If we hadn’t looked, then they’d have stopped taking her picture. That level of attention is really frightening, especially if you don’t live around all that showbiz stuff.”

Adele still feels out of place among celebrities. Earlier this year, when she went backstage to meet one of her idols, Stevie Nicks, Adele found herself uncontrollably sobbing (“like, snot, everything”). “I’m not sure if I’ll ever not feel a bit overwhelmed when I go to places where there are loads of stars,” says Adele, who spent the first decade of her life in the poor, crime-plagued district of Tottenham. “I always feel like I’m gonna get thrown out. Or it’s going to turn out to be some, like, hidden-camera show. Like someone’s gonna send me back to Tottenham.” She has recurring dreams of falling from tall buildings.

Since Angelo’s arrival, Adele’s life has been thoroughly domestic — though not, she emphasizes, reclusive: “I’ve been to every fucking park, every shop, every supermarket you could ever imagine.” She’s in a “very serious” relationship with Angelo’s father, Simon Konecki, a bearish 41-year-old investment-banker-turned-philanthropist with a warm smile. She met him just as the 21 phenomenon was peaking. “He’s so supportive,” she says. “And that takes a very big man, because I’m very successful at what I do. My last boyfriend was uncomfortable with how successful I was, and the fact that he had to share me with lots of people.” (She’s referring to the 21 dude, though there was a relationship in between.)

Contrary to various contradictory rumors, she notes that she and Konecki have neither married nor split up. “I have said a million times I’m not married and everyone still says we are,” she says. “But, yeah, we’re still together. We haven’t broken up. We’ve never broken up. We’ve been together. We just haven’t felt the need to get married. We’ve got a kid together. I feel like that’s a big enough commitment.”

One new track, “Water Under the Bridge,” is about him. It’s a notably clear-eyed love song, with a feel vaguely reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature”: “If I’m not the one for you,” she sings, “why have we been through what we have been through?” — and the chorus pleads, “If you’re gonna let me down/Let me down gently.” “It was sort of about a relationship suddenly getting really, really serious,” she says, “and then getting a bit frightened by it, and then realizing that ‘I think this must be right. This is the relationship that I want to be in for as long as I can possibly be in it.’ ” She hasn’t played the whole album for Konecki yet: “What if he doesn’t like it?”

She has quit smoking (“I absolutely loved it, but it’s not that fucking cool when I’m dying from a smoking-related illness and my kid is, like, devastated”) and has maybe one drink a week now. “I used to be able to drink anyone under the table and still be able to put on an all-right show,” she says. “But with kids, hangovers are torture. They just know. They pick up on it and just go for you.”

She is assiduous in a warm-up routine to protect her throat, which was threatened by a 2011 vocal hemorrhage that led to canceled tour dates and throat surgery, followed by that dramatic return to the stage at the 2012 Grammys. In the wake of her operation, her already world-shaking voice became palpably bigger and purer-toned, and she’s added four notes to the top of her range. “It does make your voice, like, brand-new,” she says. “Which I actually didn’t like at first, because I used to have a bit of husk to my voice, and that wasn’t there at first.”

Adele is trying to build stamina for her possible return to the road, so she’s cutting back on sugar, though not carbs altogether (“I’d never deprive myself like that!”), and hitting the gym, “to get in shape for myself, but not to be a size zero or anything like that.” Her regimen? “I mainly moan,” she says. Small cackle. “I’m not, like, skipping to the fucking gym. I don’t enjoy it. I do like doing weights. I don’t like looking in the mirror. Blood vessels burst on my face really easily, so I’m so conscious when I’m lifting weights not to let them burst in my face. And if I don’t tour, you’ll catch me back down at the Chinese!”

So at age 27, Adele is healthy and settled down, with no vices and enormous responsibility: raising a child, nurturing a career on a global scale. In short, then, no fun at all? She nods, laughing: “I’m no fun at all.”

It’s all happened so fast. “I do have this, like, overwhelming yearning for myself,” she acknowledges. “Every single day I have it for, like, a split second. It doesn’t take over my life, but I have a yearning for myself from, like, 10 years ago when my only responsibility was writing songs for myself before anyone cared, and getting to school on time. And there was something so amazing in that. You know what? What annoys me the most is that you don’t realize how amazing it is to be a kid.”

Besides her family, Adele mostly hangs out with a handful of close friends who date back to her teen years or earlier — one writes children’s books, another is a TV producer. “As 21 got bigger and bigger, I started getting back with all my old friends,” she says, mentioning hopes of taking them on the road if she tours. “I needed them big time.”

So she has a squad? “I’ve heard about a squad,” she says with an amused snort. “I wish my squad was all supermodels. We are, in our brains. I guess I have my own squad.” She pronounces the word in a comical American accent. “It’s not as interesting as some of the other squads that are around right now.” She brightens. “But maybe Rihanna can be in my squad! That would be really cool. Oh, God. She’s life itself, isn’t she? I love her.”

Adele pulls in front of an unlovely three-story brick building, next to a Texaco station. The ground floor is a discount store. Beginning at age 14, Adele lived in an apartment upstairs with her mom, Penny. Her dad has largely been out of the picture since Adele was a toddler — he is her least favorite topic of discussion, and she refuses to attach any importance to his absence from her life. “Mine were the fourth, fifth and sixth windows,” she says, pointing them out. Penny had Adele when she was just 18, and they have a fun relationship that Adele might compare to Gilmore Girls if she had ever seen it. She was still living with her mom even during 21‘s success, and they remain close. “We always spoke about anything,” she says. “There was never anything I was embarrassed about with my mom, which I think is the reason I never rebelled.” To this day, Adele has never had so much as a puff of weed.

Adele wrote the songs for her first album, 2008’s jazz-tinged, largely acoustic 19, right upstairs. She got a deal with the powerful indie label XL straight out of her Fame-style performing-arts high school, mostly on the strength of a few MySpace demos. (She made zero concessions to the label’s hip ethos: “She signed to XL, and she’s talking in interviews about her favorite group being the Spice Girls,” says Dickins. “She’s not saying her favorite group is Einstürzende Neubauten or Nitzer Ebb!”) Across the street is the African Choice Market that used to be a pub where she’d get served underage, and Hollywood Nails, where she used to get manicures. She returned there, to the proprietors’ delight, to primp for the 2012 Brit Awards.

Adele gazes up at her old apartment, her expression hard to read for once. Her yearning for her old self, her nostalgia, pervades multiple songs on her new album. Her favorite track is the Elton John-ish ballad “When We Were Young,” co-written with singer-songwriter Tobias Jesso Jr., which shares a tiny bit of DNA with “The Way We Were,” a song that brought her to tears when she saw Barbra Streisand perform it in person at the Oscars. At the last minute, Adele changed the name of another standout track from “We Ain’t Kids No More” to “Send My Love (To Your New Lover).” “Otherwise, you might as well just call the fucking album Old,” she says.

The album’s melancholia about the passage of time is very real, if slightly premature. “I’ve had a lot of regrets since I turned 25,” she says. “And sadness hits me in different ways than it used to.” On the lovely “Million Years Ago,” which sounds like a Nineties Madonna ballad mixed with “The Girl From Ipanema,” Adele sings, “Sometimes I just feel it’s only me/Who never became who they thought they’d be.” She’s realized that some of the course of her life is set, that some doors are already closed. “There’s a lot of things I don’t think I’ll ever get ’round to doing,” she says. “Not because I’m famous, but just because I just don’t think I’ll ever have the time. Like being a journalist, or like being a teacher.”

She takes a breath. “And I’m never going to be on my own again,” she says. “I’m a mom and I’m in a very serious relationship, so it’s never going to be just me again. I don’t regret any of it. Like, those aren’t the things that I regret. But I feel like I didn’t have very long to myself. I was my mom’s kid, and now I’m a mom.” She laughs. “I had, like, a five-year window of just being me.”

Around the time she became pregnant, Adele was feeling overwhelmed by her own success. She was particularly alarmed at 21’s insistence on selling and selling at an alarming rate while she was laid up with a damaged voice and doing nothing to promote it. “I felt like I’d lost control of my life at one point,” she says. “The bigger that your career gets, the smaller your life gets. I found this little, tiny janitor closet. That was my little space in my whole world. It was enough space for me. It was perfectly fine. But the idea of having to give up that little space, it really frightened me.”

She had just gotten over her vocal troubles, had won all her Grammys and was contemplating a move to New York when she learned of her pregnancy. “All my plans went through,” she says. “It was like, ‘For good measure, let’s see if I can cope with all of this and then having a baby.’ But I think actually the pregnancy was perfect timing in the end. It might’ve seemed like the most ridiculous time to have a baby, but I was starting to get a bit afraid of everything.” Angelo took away her fear. “When I had him, it made everything all right, and I trusted everything because the world had given me this miracle, you know, so I became a bit of a hippie, an Earth mother.”

In fact, she says casually, “I don’t know if I would’ve come back had I not had my kid.”

The direct sonic influence is hard to find, but one of the chief inspirations for 25 was Madonna’s Ray of Light. “You know what I found so amazing about that record?” Adele says. “That’s the record Madonna wrote after having her first child, and for me, it’s her best. I was so all over the place after having a child, just because my chemicals were just hitting the fucking roof and shit like that.” She felt detached from her artistic self. “I was just drifting away, and I couldn’t find that many examples for myself where I was like, ‘Fuck, they truly came back to themselves,’ until someone was like, ‘Well, obviously, Ray of Light.'” Adele listened to it over and over, and was particularly captivated by “Frozen.” “I took that song as ‘I’ve gotten my confidence to come and do me again.’ ”

Back at home, it’s almost time for Angelo’s nap, so Adele pulls over again so she can catch him in a quick FaceTime session before he goes down (in real life, unlike in the “Hello” video, she does not carry around an ancient flip phone). She is understandably protective of her boy, even successfully suing British paps who shot pictures of him, so she requests that I don’t describe his appearance. (He is, for the record, quite cute.)

For a while, she was trying to keep even his name secret, but it’s tattooed on one of her hands — the same spot on the other hand says PARADISE. “‘Cause Angelo is my paradise,” she says, with an uncharacteristic touch of bashfulness. (Among other ink, she also has a huge tattoo of three doves on her back.) She didn’t find out until too late that Lana Del Rey also has a “paradise” hand tattoo — a coincidence Adele finds hilarious. “She probably thinks I’m, like, some mad fangirl,” she says, launching into a campy rendition of the chorus of “Born to Die.” “I mean, I am a Lana fangirl, but not a crazy one.”

“Did you have fun at the library?” Adele asks the little guy on the screen. “What did you read?”

There is talk of elephants and Elmo, of chocolate buttons, and macaroni and cheese before Adele fondly sends Angelo off to his nap. “Will you press the red button? Peanut? Press the red button…”

“He’s a little angel,” she says. “All the things I really like about myself, he brings out in me, and he’s the only person that tells me no. He completely rules me. He’s the boss of me, and it’s so funny for other people to watch, because I’m the boss of everything in my work life.”

She can’t help feeling guilty when her work takes her away from Angelo. “I just feel bad all the time,” she says. But she took inspiration from Kate Bush’s comeback concerts. “It made me really want to hurry up and finish my record,” she says. “It made me desperate, actually, to come back.” She had read that Bush’s teenage son had encouraged her to return to performing, and she “sort of curated this show around her kid. I left, and I was like, ‘I don’t want to wait until my kid is 16 to show him who I am.’ Because I’m very proud of what I achieved. And I wasn’t, before I had Angelo. I didn’t understand, actually, what I had achieved and how far I had come. Because everyone wants to do something with their life, and we don’t all get the opportunity because shit gets in the way. So I feel fucking so fortunate that the stars just aligned for me and allowed me to have the most ridiculous ride ever.”

About a year and a half ago, Adele thought she might have nearly enough songs for an album. Her manager wasn’t so sure, and they brought the demos to Rick Rubin, who had given valuable input on 21 — even though Adele ended up jettisoning some of his productions in favor of her rougher takes. Rubin listened, stroking his beard, probably. He looked at Adele and told her, “I don’t believe you.” The original group of songs was lighter in tone than anything she’s done. “You know the pop songs that are fantastic, but they don’t have much depth?” says Adele. “They were all a bit like that.”

“Adele was anxious to be finished with the new album and move forward with life,” says Rubin. “I stressed the most important thing was to be true to her voice, even if that took longer and was more work… In the new material I heard, it was clear she wasn’t the primary writer — many of the songs sounded like they might be on a different pop artist’s album. It’s not just her voice singing any song that makes it special.”

“I actually took it really well,” Adele recalls. “When he said it, I couldn’t work out if I was, like, devastated, going to cry my eyes out. And then I just said, ‘I don’t really believe myself right now, so I’m not surprised you fucking said that.’ ” Rubin and Dickins both told her it sounded like she was rushing. “And that’s not a way to make any kind of record,” she says. “Especially when I’m trying to fucking follow 21. So I went back to the drawing board, really.”

Earlier this year, she spent two months in Los Angeles, determined to move forward on her album for real. Among other sessions, she ended up working with the ubiquitous pop auteur Max Martin (along with collaborator Shellback) on the slinky “Send My Love (To Your Lover),” which may well be her catchiest, most modern song ever, built around an almost African-sounding guitar lick Adele wrote several years ago. She sought Martin out because she liked Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” (“I thought it was a really different side to her”). But soon she looked up Martin on YouTube, where she discovered the full breadth of his influence, the hits he’d written or co-written for everyone from N’Sync and Britney Spears to Katy Perry. “Send My Love” is the only kiss-off song on this album, addressed to the guy Adele dated between her 21 paramour and Konecki. “It’s one of those, like, ‘I’m fucking fine so fuck you’ songs,” she says.

A key early song was “Remedy,” a big ballad with rolling piano chords written with Ryan Tedder, who also co-wrote “Rumour Has It” and “Turning Tables,” from 21. It feels like Adele’s own version of Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love,” which she covered on her first album. “When the pain cuts too deep and the night keeps you from sleep,” she sings, with exquisite tenderness, “I will be your remedy.” It made her tear up as she wrote it, and it has a similar effect on listeners. “I wrote it about my child,” she says. “But I sang it for everyone that I really love. When I wrote it, I got my confidence back in my writing ’cause I believed in myself.”

On 21, she came into sessions with Moleskine notebooks full of lyric ideas. This time, she often started from scratch, summoning songs from the air. Her collaborators would play chords while Adele improvised melodies and lyrics, sometimes in a single burst. “It’s impossible to question why she’s where she is once you sit down with her to write a song,” says Jesso. “She was the first introduction I had to somebody who could sing words on the spot that were actually really great.” Jesso’s manager told him that he could hear Adele’s voice from the street outside the house where they were recording, that it was practically shaking its foundations.

She and Bruno Mars made an attempt at an uptempo song but instead created the unapologetically dramatic ballad “All I Ask,” complete with a climactic key change and Adele engaging in what she calls some of her most “showoff-y” vocals. “I’ve never sung like that before,” she says. “Never sang that high. The funny thing is that Bruno was hitting those notes in the studio too.” (“She’s a superstar and sassy as fuck,” says Mars, who recalls a brief disagreement over one lyric. “Once she recorded it, it became one of my favorite parts of the song. She told me she hopes I’m in the audience when she sings that line live so she can flick me off.”)

In only one case did a collaboration go wildly wrong. She took a stab at recording with Blur frontman Damon Albarn — and he ended up telling the press that Adele was “insecure” and that her music was “middle of the road.” “It ended up being one of those ‘don’t meet your idol’ moments,” she says. “And the saddest thing was that I was such a big Blur fan growing up. But it was sad, and I regret hanging out with him.” They didn’t finish a single song. “No! None of it was right. None of it suited my record. He said I was insecure, when I’m the least-insecure person I know. I was asking his opinion about my fears, about coming back with a child involved — because he has a child — and then he calls me insecure?”

Adele wanted to modernize her sound, to add some synths and drum pads, to move away from the young-fogey vibe of 21 — on “River Lea,” her track with Danger Mouse, she sings over choirlike keyboard chords created from her own sampled voice. “This time, it was about trying to come up with the weirdest sounds that I could get away with,” says Epworth, who co-wrote two tracks on 25. “This album feels like it fits in maybe more with the cultural dialogue instead of being anachronistic to it. It’s almost like she’s trying to beat everyone else at their own game.”

There’s roughly a full album’s worth of outtakes from 25. Adele is ruthless in her quality control, and was still making final tweaks to the track list when we met. “Some songs are not fucking good enough,” she says. “And I think that’s where a lot of people go wrong, thinking that people will buy any old shit from you.”

Adele celebrated a recent birthday at Kurobuta, a Japanese pub-food spot with a cultivated rock & roll vibe; The Guardian described it as both “insanely delicious” and “ridiculously expensive.” Tonight, she’s returned, and the restaurant has arranged for us to have a private candlelit room in back, down a small flight of stairs. We have a comically huge distressed-wood communal table to ourselves. Sometimes it’s good to be a random girl from London.

As we study the menu, which is heavy on fried food, Adele is amused to hear I’m trying to eat low-carb. “Let’s cheat,” she says, persuasively. Behind her are various vintage rock posters, including the cover of Jimi Hendrix’s Axis: Bold as Love. “Let’s both cheat. It’s my cheat day. Let’s go mad!” She looks at the menu again. “I’m going in! Going HAM — hard as a motherfucker!”

She glances at an empty corner. “Last time we were here, they had a TV in there,” she says. “They must’ve taken it all out. But it was showing, like, hardcore anime porn. It was just mad! It’s a bit off-putting when you’re eating, like, sushi and they’ve got all the hardcore porn stuff on.”

She orders an amaretto sour — what she calls a “Days of Our Lives” drink — but then changes it to a glass of sauvignon blanc. “I don’t know if I should be that fierce,” she says. “I just remembered I’m being interviewed.”

Adele is aware that certain critics have used her “classy” image and music as a cudgel against the Mileys of the world. She is really not into it. “I’d rather not be the person that everyone gets pitted against,” she says. “If they do decide to get their body out, I would rather not be that person because that’s just pitting a woman against another woman, and I don’t hold any more moral high ground than anyone else. So that has pissed me off a bit. Not that I’m going to start getting my tits out now!”

She continues to think out loud. “Would I show my body off if I was thinner? Probably not, because my body is mine. But sometimes I’m curious to know if I would have been as successful if I wasn’t plus-size. I think I remind everyone of themselves. Not saying everyone is my size, but it’s relatable because I’m not perfect, and I think a lot of people are portrayed as perfect, unreachable and untouchable.”

She finds a lot of the questions she’s faced on these issues to be blatantly sexist. “I’ve been asked ‘Would you do Playboy?’ so many fucking times, it’s ridiculous,” she says. “And is that because I’m a woman or because I’m fat?”

Then again, she took note of the fuss made over a certain male celebrity when he slimmed down. “What I found really interesting was the big, big deal that was made out of Chris Pratt. When he lost all of his weight, it was, ‘Oh, my God, who would have known he was so fucking fit?’ It was a lot of attention on when he used to be bigger. I’ve never seen that with a guy.”

Adele has been so busy the past few years that she’s only faintly aware of the newfound prominence of feminism in the pop-cultural discourse. “If there’s a movement, that’s great,” she says. “Who’s doing it? Will you ask me if I’m a feminist? I don’t think many men in interviews get asked if they’re feminist.”

I don’t ask the question, but she wants to answer anyway. “I’m a feminist,” she says, sipping wine. “I believe that everyone should be treated the same, including race and sexuality.” She recalls not being taken seriously in business meetings full of men, of encountering an attitude of “what do you know?” “It’s like, ‘Well, I’m the fucking artist,’ ” she says, sitting up straighter in her chair. “ ’So I fucking know everything, actually! Like, don’t fucking talk down to me!’ ”

She enjoyed working with Sia for her new album, even though the songs didn’t make it (one, “Alive,” became a single for Sia instead). Adele realized she had never collaborated with a woman before. “I actually love the dynamic of us both being in there and just fucking being bossy,” she says with a laugh. “And it’s all these male producers, and they’re all fucking shitting themselves ’cause we’re in there.”

Do you think everyone will be disappointed that I’m happy?” Adele asks. It’s a couple of days after our dinner, and she’s wearing a similar leggings-and-sweater ensemble, with the glam addition of glittery Margiela boots. We’re sitting in her manager’s bright, modern office on a quiet Notting Hill street, decorated with sports memorabilia and some of Adele’s prizes. She points out her Ivor Novello songwriting award in the corner but neglects to mention her Diamond Award next to it, which commemorates more than 10 million copies sold in the U.S.

Adele knows that her songs have been a solace to her fans. “If my music can heal anyone’s heart, then that is, like, the most satisfying thing ever,” she says. “I don’t think the record has a vibe of ‘Whoo-hoo, I’m totally happy!’ But with me being in a brighter space with my love life, will my fans be disappointed in me that I can’t fix their broken hearts with a song that is brokenhearted? I don’t want to disappoint them. But at the same time, I can’t write a sad record, like, for everyone else. That’s not a real record, unless I am sad.”

She laughs at the reminder that her last Rolling Stone interview ended with her imagining what would happen if she were in a stable relationship: “No music!” she joked then. “My fans will be like, ‘Babe! Please! Get divorced!’ ”

But she doesn’t see it that way anymore. “It would be a bit tragic to do a heartbreak album again,” she says. “A cliché, not even tragic! It’d be such a cliché. What if I was heartbroken? What the fuck would I write about? ‘Cause I can’t write a fucking heartbreak record again! So just flip and reverse it.”

She does understand artists’ temptation to create chaos in their lives. “I would have been totally up for that had I not had a kid,” she says. “I didn’t think I’d settle down. I always loved the drama, you know? Always wanted to be in love but always loved the drama, since I was very young.”

The question of a tour looms large in Adele’s mind, and she’s giving herself until Christmas to decide. “When I’ve sat down and thought, ‘What can I do to bring something new to the table?’ It was just like, ‘Tour.’ Because I haven’t done it properly.” As she sees it, this album might be her last chance for many years to hit the road — once Angelo is in school, she doesn’t want to take him out.

Adele has always had stage fright, with a particular fear of opening her mouth on-stage and having nothing come out. Which is peculiar, because she’s already lost her voice and regained it. “But it didn’t happen midshow,” she says, waving off the idea. She also has the unlikely vision of walking out onstage and seeing only five people in an arena.

She dreads having more throat problems. “If my throat goes, then I’ll never be able to do a tour again,” she says. “I’ll be able to get my throat fixed again and do studio work, but do I want to do some-thing and then fail at it and be too scared to ever try it again?”

Wherever she does perform, she promises to embrace her old stuff, joking that she’s “forever 21.” “Being defined by any record is a dream come true when you’re an artist,” she says. “It’s like when I go and see certain bands — not to name any — and they don’t play their fucking biggest hit? Cunts! That really annoys me.

“To the general public, it’s not about your body of work,” she says. “In most cases, it’s about the song that reminds them of something in their lives. They take you into their heart.

“That’s, like, the biggest thing ever.” She smiles, eyes alight with all the music left to be made. “You have to play that song.”

2021[]

Adele covered Rolling Stone for a fifth time in December 2021 to promote her new album, 30. The cover story was officially released online on November 11, 2021 and was written by Brittany Spanos.[7] The photoshoot was done by Theo Wenner.[8]

Adele thought that maybe, just maybe, she could quietly slip news of her and her husband’s separation into the world without much notice. It was Good Friday, 2019, and their marriage had been over for some time. A holiday weekend, she figured, might deflect some of the attention she had been dreading.

“Fucking idiot,” she says of her plan.

Adele and her husband, Simon Konecki, had been together since 2011. Their relationship was remarkably under the radar given Adele’s growing stardom, partly because she really only emerged from her life as a wife and mother to their son, Angelo, to release record-shattering albums. Their wedding was so private there aren’t even pictures online.

Adele’s dread only intensified after a press release went out that Good Friday evening. A close friend flew out from England to Los Angeles to make sure the then-30-year-old wasn’t on her own as the news spread. Tweets and memes flooded social media, expressing not just shock that the relationship had ended, but also excitement at the idea that Adele’s heartbreak would inspire new music.

You can understand where the fans were coming from. Adele built her empire on heartache: moving reflections of pain and its aftermath, like finding “Someone Like You,” or merely saying “Hello” to an ex after years have passed. At the time Adele and Konecki announced their breakup, nearly four years had passed since her last album, 25, and her audience was hungry for something new. And what’s a better album prompt than a high-profile divorce?

For Adele, the fan reaction was bewildering. “During something like that, that kind of significant thing to happen in life, your mind sort of goes to those places: ‘Why don’t they like me? Why would they write that if they’ve followed me for 10 years?’ But in reality, that’s not their responsibility. In reality, their responsibility as a fan is to want a good record and to hope I deliver. So I took it with a pinch of salt, and it was fine.”

(Adele knows a thing or two about waiting forever for a favorite artist to release new music, like her friend Kendrick Lamar. “Fucking hell!” she says of her anticipation for the rapper’s next LP. Unlike her fans, she’s already had the privilege of hearing a few of Lamar’s new songs in the interim.)

Adele had enough to worry about besides Twitter and the expectation of new music. Rumors and assumptions spread like wildfire, but the reality is that there were no heroes or villains in her divorce. Konecki was a good husband and continues to be a great father to Angelo. He’s still one of Adele’s best friends, even texting her memes while she and I are together. Instead, the end came with the heartbreaking, if less dramatic, feeling that she was getting further from the person she hoped to be.

“I didn’t really know myself,” she says. “I thought I did. I don’t know if it was because of my Saturn return or if it was because I was well and truly sort of heading into my thirties, but I just didn’t like who I was.”

Adele wanted to be settled and happy, in a home full of loving, organized chaos. She never really felt that, or at least she never felt truly present in it. “It made me really sad,” she recalls. “Then having so many people that I don’t know know that I didn’t make that work … it fucking devastated me. I was embarrassed. No one made me feel embarrassed, but you feel like you didn’t do a good job.”

Adele had already started writing the album everyone was waiting for. She began work on 30 in early 2019 and had it completely written by early 2020, though the pandemic would have something to say about the eventual release date. Sure, it’s an album about “divorce, babe,” as she stated recently in her first-ever Instagram Live. But it’s not the collection of scorched-earth power ballads everyone may have been expecting.

Instead, Adele wrote an open letter to Angelo, in hopes that one day he’ll hear the album and really, truly understand who his mom was and how her life changed during this time. The only song specifically about her marriage is “Easy on Me,” the gorgeous, very typically Adele first single. Across 30, Adele assesses the most important relationship of her life: the one with herself. Saturn returns are periods of major upheaval at the turn of one’s thirties, and Adele just went through hers, coming out on the other side of a turbulent period ready to reckon with who she is and what she wants, even if it meant upending her own life.

She embarked on a spiritual journey, her own Eat, Pray, Love, if you will. It’s the kind of thing the acerbic Brit might once have rolled her eyes at. It was exactly what she needed.

The Good Friday announcement sent Adele off on an intense few weeks of bed-bound anxiety. She was spending more nights on her own now that she and Konecki shared custody of Angelo. It was the most time she had ever spent away from her son.

But when she celebrated her 31st birthday with friends in May 2019, eating a home-cooked dinner and watching a movie, something clicked. “I remember going upstairs, and doing my face, and getting into bed,” she says. Her birthday fell a few weeks after that depressing Easter weekend. “I felt quite hopeful,” she says. “It was the first time I felt I’d had a really nice evening and I was OK being in the house and going to bed on my own. I was not excited, but I was looking forward to the next day.”

The next day, she woke up to the California sun pouring through her curtains and “saw this tsunami of emotions” coming toward her. She thought that maybe she would try to be busy. Instead, she stayed in bed and started watching The Sopranos.

“I was like, ‘This is going to be really fucking up-and-down,’” she says. And it was. But after the great birthday and rough comedown of a morning after, she decided to spend 2019 trying new things. She took recommendations from anyone — her lifelong London crew, industry allies, other moms at Angelo’s school, even her eyelash girl. She entered her “sound bath era” and began hiking regularly. That July, she climbed a mountain in Idaho with friends, where they wrote their intentions and buried them in the dirt. She gave up drinking for about six months, tired of the constant “hangxiety.”

“Anything that could soothe my anxiety, I threw myself in headfirst,” she explains. She traveled “anywhere where there’s meant to be brilliant energy.” Jamaica, Greece, even a desert in Arizona, where she had done a similar intention-setting ritual. Adele’s diet and body were changing, too. She had found out she’s allergic to most forms of gluten when she moved to Los Angeles three years earlier, and later learned that a symptom of gluten sensitivity is feeling depressed. “So, I was like, ‘Oh, great. Thanks, guys. Could have had a really fun twenties.’ ”

She got a bit addicted to the gym; it was another place where she didn’t feel anxious. She was learning she was stronger than she thought and healing parts of her body, like the back that had given her trouble for years. She also learned she is surprisingly athletic. “If I can transform my strength and my body like this, surely I can do it to my emotions and to my brain and to my inner well-being,” she surmised. “That was what drove me. It just coincided with all of the emotional work that I was doing with myself as a visual for it, basically.”

All the while, she was writing. Most of her new songs were penned during a trip to London that summer. The producers and songwriters Greg Kurstin, Tobias Jesso Jr., Max Martin, and Shellback all returned after contributing to 25. New to the squad was Inflo, a North London producer who helped her get back to some of her writing roots.

“He really taught me to chill out,” she explains. After having Angelo, she’d become a bit of a “control freak,” which showed when she was making 25. It was more polished than 19 and 21, albums on which she was “just throwing everything at the wall.” Inflo made her take a closer listen to some of her favorite albums — Donny Hathaway, the Carpenters, Al Green, Marvin Gaye. Their albums sound perfect because they technically aren’t. “He was like, ‘If you really listen, this is a mess. If you really listen, people are playing the wrong notes. They’re coming in at the wrong time. It’s all about the energy and the atmosphere that that creates. Why would you want anyone to do another take if you’ve just got the most perfect take that there is?’ ”

Their time in the studio would begin with a “six-hour therapy session,” Adele says, when the pair would unpack what she was going through at the moment and then spend two or three days pulling out a song that cut to the heart of her emotional tsunami.

The album’s track list is almost a chronological chain of events. It begins with a Judy Garland homage titled “Strangers by Nature,” which opens with Adele “taking flowers to the cemetery of my heart” and wondering if she’ll ever learn “to nurture what I’ve done.” She made that one with Ludwig Göransson, the Oscar-winning Swedish composer who worked on Black Panther and with Childish Gambino (whom, by the way, Adele’s been into for “donkey’s years”).

“I met Göransson at a party, and I was like, ‘He’s definitely European, that guy,’ ” she recalls. As a Brit in L.A., she finds herself seeking out other Europeans because of their often similar dry sense of humor.

They worked on “Strangers” after she had watched the Renée Zellweger-led Garland biopic, Judy, and wondered why no one wrote songs like that anymore. She calls the track her Death Becomes Her moment, alluding to the camp classic starring Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn as two vengeful, youth-obsessed frenemies. Through “Strangers,” Adele acknowledges being a bit of a “hot mess.”

The song, short and whimsical, is so unlike anything she’s done before that she almost thought about giving it to someone else to sing or sample. “You know in the old movies when someone’s having a flashback or a memory to something else, and it’s almost like they’ll shoot a river or a pond and the water goes all ripply?” she asks. “It reminds me of that.”

On “My Little Love,” Adele sings an R&B lullaby to Angelo. She admits that “Mama’s got a lot to learn” and that she’s just barely holding on. Strikingly, it includes voice memos of Angelo asking tough questions she tries her best to answer. “I love your dad because he gave you to me,” she says to him during bedtime conversations she’d begun to record in a period of severe anxiety. “It was unbearable,” she explains now, “and so if I started getting anxious about something I might or might not have said, I could just listen back to this and be like, ‘OK, I’m fine.’”

Adele has started to wonder about society’s expectations for mothers, how they’re always just moms while dads can be many things at once. Much of that is what reinforced her feelings of failing Angelo after leaving Konecki. “I might not have been emotionally there all the time, but I never wasn’t there for him,” she says, defending herself against her own fears. “My Little Love” — and, really, all of 30 — is about showing Angelo who his mother really is: a layered and complicated woman with an identity outside of their relationship, who’s struggled and cried and hurt.

“He needs to know everyone goes through it,” she continues. So far, and as heard on the voice memos, he is quite the understanding nine-year-old. “He’s a Libra, so he is, like, ‘Chill. It’s fine, Mama. Just chill out.’ ”

In February 2020, Adele’s best friend Laura invited Adele to come to her wedding. “I’d been so sad and reclusive,” Adele says. “She was like, ‘Listen, I need you to show up for me. I need you to come and run the party.’ ”

Since becoming famous, Adele often felt she had to skip things like weddings and birthday parties for her friends. She worried her presence would cause paparazzi disruptions for the guests or invasions of her own privacy. It’s not like she could ask to have all the phones removed from someone else’s big day. “I took it to an incredibly isolating level,” she says.

But in the process of regaining herself outside of her marriage, Adele began showing up for friends like Laura. And in showing up, she managed to leak news of her own album. A couple of glasses of wine in, she took the stage at Laura’s wedding to announce that her fourth LP would arrive in September 2020, a date that would of course slide back, thanks to a worldwide pandemic. “[Laura] was like, ‘I was not expecting you to really run it like that,’ ” she says.

Fast-forward to this September, a full year after the original release date. Adele is enjoying a poke bowl in a Burbank rehearsal space and relishing a different kind of tweetstorm than the one she witnessed after her separation announcement. Her name had been trending after a radio host spread a rumor that she was about to drop her album imminently. A fake track list started to spread, including imaginary duets with Beyoncé and Ariana Grande. Adele isn’t active online when she’s not promoting an album or tour, but she is a “full-blown millennial.” Meaning she’s an NSA-level online sleuth.

“I know how to trace something online, like no one’s business, back to the original source or leak, more than anyone on my team,” she claims. She has a “finsta” — fake Instagram — she uses to check out cat and interior-design content, and a fake Twitter for checking on what’s come out about her. She’s been keeping tabs on information leaking about the real 30, free from any duets outside of a deluxe-edition version of “Easy on Me” featuring Chris Stapleton.

Adele pulls out her phone to find her favorite Tweet from the fervor over the fake album announcement. She searches the user @keyon, whose display name is “HOOD VOGUE is tired of poverty.” He called bullshit on the information quickly, noting that Adele famously does not do features. “He is so funny. I was like, ‘See, that’s a fan,’ ” she says, scrolling through her phone. “If anything’s blowing up on Twitter, I always go straight to that account because I know he’ll either be like, ‘Oh, this could be real,’ or he’s like, ‘This is fake.’ ”

A couple of hours after we part ways, she’ll forward another tweet to me, with her name in bold from the search she pulled up on Twitter. “Can someone wake Adele up and tell her she’s coming Friday I don’t think she knows,” it reads, a sly reference to the fact that maybe, just maybe, the internet sleuths have it wrong and 30 is not, in fact, coming out that week.

The radio person wasn’t totally off about something coming. That Friday, projections and billboards would pop up across the world with just the number 30 on them.  Following the confirmation of new music a few days later, her album rollout snowballed from there. Soon, the actual, final date was announced: Nov. 19.

She could delay the album only so long. “If it wasn’t coming out now, I think I probably would never put it out,” she admits. Given the very specific point of her life she’s singing about, she reckoned with the fact that an album has as much of a shelf life for the artist as it does for the audience. “I know I would’ve changed my mind and been like, ‘It’s moved on. Let’s start the next album.’ And I couldn’t do that to this album. I feel like it deserves to come out.

Albums, tours, and movies have been scheduled and rescheduled across the industry in an ongoing search for when things will feel “normal.” But like Adele and Drake, many have concluded that that time may not come for a long while. “No one wants to remember this period of time,” she says. “Obviously, it’s way better than last year, but the day my album comes out, someone’s loved one will have died from Covid. For them, it’s going to be a reminder every time they hear ‘Easy on Me’ on the radio.”

The week 30 was announced, Adele gathered her band in Burbank to start going over songs old and new. It had been years since they were together, so they celebrated their reunion that week with a game of rounders (a kind of British children’s baseball) at the Rose Bowl with a catered In-N-Out lunch. The band wore matching shirts, and Adele’s goldendoodle puppies, Freddie and Bob, ran around the field. In a stirring battle of Americans versus Brits (and Australians), the Americans (with help from one athletically challenged journalist) won by a hair, even though we had no idea how to play the game.

In October, the crew filmed two live specials, one for CBS stateside and the other for ITV in the U.K. They’ll prep again next year for a few big shows, including two in Hyde Park in London. For now, don’t expect a marathon tour like the one Adele embarked on for 25. “It’s too unpredictable, with all the rules and stuff,” she says. “I don’t want anyone coming to my show scared. And I don’t want to get Covid, either.” She shoots down the rumors of a Las Vegas residency, which she hasn’t signed up to do “because there’s fucking nothing available.”

In rehearsal, Adele and her band test out the upcoming single “I Drink Wine,” a standout from 30 that’s already gone viral on Twitter, based off the name alone. It’s a song about shedding one’s ego, complete with a bit of a Seventies Elton John and Bernie Taupin flair. “I took everything so personally at that period of time in my life,” she explains, “so the lyric ‘I hope I learn to get over myself’ is like [me saying] ‘Once I’ve done that, then maybe I can let you love me.’ ”

The song is conversational, with Adele pulling a “Barry Manilow trick,” where every chorus is sung differently. She put on different characters while recording the background vocals, too, to give it a sarcastic Sixties vibe (also present on the cheeky “Cry Your Heart Out” and “Love Is a Game”). “It made it less intimidating,” she continues, “because some of the things I’m talking about really hit home for a lot of people.”

It’s hard to date when you’re Adele. After her divorce, she was back on the market for the first time in nearly a decade, years of which were spent becoming one of the bestselling artists of all time. She’s jealous of her friends who are on apps. L.A. never really felt conducive to finding love in the limited ways she could seek it out. “Everyone is someone or everyone wants to be someone,” she says. “I’ve been so lucky that no one I’ve been with has ever sold a story on me. I feel like that could really be a possibility.”

She wrote the 30 track “Can I Get It” about wanting to be in a real relationship instead of one that would devolve into casual sex, which seemed to be the only thing the Los Angeles dating pool was good for. “I lasted five seconds [dating here],” she jokes. The song “Oh My God” explores wanting to put herself out there but having trouble doing so as a superstar.

Her friends tried to set her up with people they knew, but she hated that, too. “You can’t set me up on a fucking blind date! I’m like, ‘How’s that going to work?’ There’ll be paparazzi outside and someone will call [gossip site] Deuxmoi, or whatever it’s fucking called! It ain’t happening.”

She was able to find love in private. There are a few songs on the album about the first relationship after her separation. The Erroll Garner-sampling “All Night Parking” is an ode to the intoxicating feeling of falling for someone new. “When I’m out at a party/I’m just excited to get home/And dream about you/All night long,” she sings. Unfortunately, the romance was long-distance and doomed from the start. “[It] was a great learning curve and nice to feel loved, but it was never going to work,” she admits.

The track immediately after “All Night Parking,” titled “Woman Like Me,” jumps toward the end of the courtship. A diss song through and through, it finds Adele chiding her ex for being complacent, lazy, and insecure, wasting the potential of their relationship. She delivers the message clearly and calmly, less pissed off than completely over the situation. “Even though I’m directing all the things I’m saying at someone else, they’re also things I’ve learned on this journey,” she explains. “The storyline of what I’m saying, I wouldn’t have been able to write before because it was something that I was experiencing myself.” (Some fans have wondered whether any songs on 30 are about British grime star Skepta, but Adele was already done with the album before rumors of their romance even surfaced.)

When you’re an A-lister, dates tend to be sterile — NDAs, hiring out the whole restaurant. Still, she’s recently found ease, stability, and security with boyfriend Rich Paul, an agent for prominent athletes like LeBron James. Paul and Adele met on a dance floor at a mutual friend’s birthday party years ago. She doesn’t remember which song they danced to, but she assumes it was something by her close friend Drake. Mostly because the DJ was playing too much Drake that night: “I was like, ‘You should play something else. I love Drake. But you should play something else.’ ”

It was, in fact, Deuxmoi that broke the news of their relationship, telling the world before she was even able to tell the people in her life. “I didn’t really tell many of my friends at the beginning because I wanted to keep it to myself,” she admits. The first photos of them were at a discount mall. “None of them believed it!” For the record, she made a good sweep of the store that day. “Woo! I got loads in there,” she exclaims, with that signature open-throated cackle.

Just as she’s learned to date, Adele has also come to find her way in her adopted hometown. Until Adele had Angelo, she never liked Los Angeles. “It felt like I was only ever here for work. I felt like I never met anyone that was from here,” she explains. She thought of L.A. as a ghost town. But when she was in town for the Oscars in 2013, the year she won a statue for her James Bond song, “Skyfall,” Adele, Konecki, and an infant Angelo rented a house and she fell in love. “That sun every morning,” Adele says. “[You can] always see the sky because it’s not high-rises here.”

The family bought a house during the American leg of her tour, settling down in a celebrity-filled, gated enclave in Beverly Hills. The home is cozy and kind, with plush red sofas and sage-green cabinets. There’s a huge room dedicated to toys and instruments for her son, though he’s more into video games and TikTok lately. Eventually, they bought two more houses in the same area, including one across the street, where Konecki now lives. “We do normal, normal things on the weekends,” Adele says of their life. “I’ll take him to the parties, all of that. We’ll do school drop-off.”

As Angelo started attending school, Adele began befriending the other moms. In her neighborhood, she finally caved and made industry friends, like her neighbors Nicole Richie and Jennifer Lawrence, a practice she had consciously avoided for years. “They humanized me because I had avoided talking to anyone that was ever famous in any capacity, because I was like, ‘Well, I’m not famous.’ I’m very British like that,” she explains. “We never spoke about work, which was amazing, because most of the time when I catch up with someone, they want to know all about my work, and I’m like, ‘I don’t want to talk about that. Can we talk about something else? I’m knackered.’ ”

Adele has “chilled out” in Los Angeles, with her core group of friends helping her find a life that feels both private and full. In fact, she has come to love the city so much that she even got it tattooed on her arm, the L.A. skyline in the middle of a ringed planet, to represent the Saturn return she experienced while living there.

Adele still had one more stop on her journey of personal reckoning. It was back in the U.K., where her father was losing an eight-year battle with cancer.

Adele’s parents split when she was three. Following the separation and a string of other losses, her father, Mark Evans, began to slip deeper into alcoholism and became estranged from his young daughter. Their relationship remained tense as her fame ballooned.

When Evans’ cancer returned earlier this year, Adele wasn’t sure whether she should go to see him. She credits her friend India with persuading her to do so. It turned out her dad was receptive to having an honest conversation about their relationship and the pain she’s felt her entire life. She even played Evans the new songs. In fact, he was the first person to hear them.

Their final conversation set her free from a lifetime of pain, feelings of abandonment, and being unloved, set off by a seeming lack of effort on his part. “I don’t think I understood the true deepness of how I felt about my dad until we spoke,” she says.

There were parts of her father that she had never quite understood and was now ready to forgive. The same types of things she hopes to explain to Angelo about herself. “I think I’ve never been fully in any of my relationships,” she reflects, with Konecki as the closest exception. “I always had this fear from a really young age that you’re going to leave me anyway, so I’m going to leave or I’m not going to invest myself in anything.”

When Evans died in May, she found herself having a “physical reaction,” comparing the experience to the scene in The Green Mile where illnesses are sucked out of people and spat out. “It was like I let out one wail and something left,” Adele explains. “I’ve felt so calm ever since then. It really did set little me free.”

A week later, she reconnected with Paul and embarked on the most “incredible, openhearted, and easiest” relationship she’s ever been in. A relationship she finally felt comfortable enough to tell the world about, with a man she was proud to introduce to her son.

After a four-album journey, a woman has found new love, and it turned out to be as much with another person as it was with herself. “I’m not frightened of loneliness anymore,” she says.

References[]

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