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by Natalie Finn | Fri., Jun. 30, 2017 5:00 AM
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for NARAS
There is a level of adulation that has seemingly been reserved just for Adele, a form of praise and professional appreciation that, no matter how famous and beloved some of her fellow singers are, has only been applied to her.
At this moment, you might say Adele is peerless.
And she's tolerated every minute of it.
While no one recording today performs quite like her, commanding the stage with nothing more than a microphone, she's also peerless when it comes to the ambivalence she expresses when it comes to the celebrity that has come with the diamond-certified album sales, the 15 Grammys, the Golden Globe and the Oscar.
At any given time, it sounds as though she could do without it.
Though she's always hot on the heels of one triumph or another, be it her record-tying six Grammy wins in 2012 or her clean sweep of the five Grammys she was nominated for in 2017, the magnetic artist is visibly distressed at times by the necessary rigors of touring and living in the public eye. We've witnessed her both embrace the accolades and push them away. Her performance flubs have endeared her to fans and yet also have made her seem far more fragile than her powerful voice would indicate.
While Adele's voice is timeless and at her best she gives off the reassuring vibe that she's never going away, ever, other times she seems like she can't wait to get away.
"Applause makes me feel a bit vulnerable," she admitted onstage in March.
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No wonder she swears so much—it probably helps her relax! She even smashed her own swearing record at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday, according to The Sun, uttering anywhere from 52 to 56 swears (depending on what you consider to be profanity). Her previous high was 33 swears at the Glastonbury Festival last year.
About to wrap up her Adele Live 2017 tour in her native England this weekend, the programs handed out to concertgoers at Wembley contained copies of a handwritten note from the star in which she expressed her gratitude just in case this it it for her.
"Touring is a peculiar thing, it doesn't suit me particularly well," she wrote. "I'm a real homebody and I get so much joy in the small things. Plus I'm dramatic and have a terrible history of touring. Until now that is! I've done 119 shows and these last 4 will take me up to 123, it has been hard but an absolute thrill and pleasure to have done. I only ever did this tour for you and to hopefully have an impact on you the way that some of my favorite artists have had on me live. And I wanted my final shows to be in London because I don't know if I'll tour again and so I want my last time to be at home."
Surely her fans and anyone who has seen her live would disagree with that "terrible history" summation. Adele has sold out Wembley four times, and Wednesday's show played to a venue-record audience of 98,000 people.
This is hardly the first time Adele has terrified her patient fans like that (almost five years between albums can feel like an eternity), but though the idea of her packing it in at 29 years of age seems absurd on the surface, she has been candid about touring being her her least favorite part of the gig.
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In the December 2016 issue of Vanity Fair, she admitted that she still got nervous but otherwise had her stage fright under control—but that wasn't the whole problem. (Neither was it the toll that all that belting out—she considers herself a "wailer"—takes on her voice; she was forced to scrap her tour in 2011 after suffering a vocal cord hemorrhage that required surgery to repair.)
"I'd still like to make records, but I'd be fine if I never heard [the applause] again," Adele said. "I'm on tour simply to see everyone who's been so supportive. I don't care about money. I'm British, and we don't have that...thing of having to earn more money all the time...I love being famous for my songs, but I don't enjoy being in the public eye.
"I love to make music, and I love doing shows, and I needed to go back to work—not for money but because something was missing. I wasn't creating music. But there is such a massive difference between what I do for my work and what I do in my real life. I don't think anyone should be famous for going to a grocery store or a playground."
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And since 2012, she'd much rather have more time for her 4-year-old son, Angelo.
There were reports a year ago, a few months after 25 came out, that Adele was planning on taking a five-year break from music to focus solely on her family, but since she was about to embark on a world tour, she certainly wasn't commenting. She said in the December 2016 issue of Vanity Fair she didn't want to have more of her own kids, calling husband Simon Konecki's daughter from a previous relationship her "get-out-of-jail free card," because Angelo already has a sibling. She acknowledged suffering from "really bad" postpartum depression after he was born; talking with other mothers who were going through it too ultimately helped.
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"I'm enjoying touring, but at times I feel guilty because I'm doing this massive tour, and even though my son is with me all the time, on certain nights I can't put him to bed. I never feel guilty when I'm not working. You're constantly trying to make up for stuff when you're a mom," Adele told VF. "I don't mind, because of the love I feel for him...I don't care if I don't ever get to do anything for myself again."
That being said, "I love my son more than anything, but on a daily basis, if I have a minute or two, I wish I could do whatever the f--k I wanted, whenever I want. Every single day I feel like that."
Regardless, it's having a son that has prompted Adele to share more of her personal experiences as a mom but ultimately cling to whatever privacy she can muster all the more fiercely. She has said repeatedly that she didn't hole up in her house like a recluse during her hiatus between albums. Rather, she told Rolling Stone in 2015, she went to "every f--king, every shop, every supermarket you could ever imagine." She just tried to do so with as few people noticing as possible.
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"All of my relationships are more important to me than any tour I'll ever do," Adele told VF last year. "If my relationship with Simon or my relationship with Angelo started to flounder a bit now, I would pull out of my tour. My life is more important to me than anything I'm doing because how the f--k am I supposed to write a record if I don't have a life? If I don't have a real life, then it's game over anyway."
She says that she appreciates the 14-year age gap between her and Konecki all the more because he's been unfazed by her success. "Simon is already who he is, and I'm still becoming who I'm going to be. He's confident. He's perfect," she gushed.
Not that being a celebrity is all bad. Being a big star herself means she gets to hang out with her heroes, like Beyoncé, work with Bruno Mars and count legends like Stevie Nicks and Bette Midler among her fans.
Fame has also given her a unique opportunity to help others, as she just did when she surprised some of the firefighters who had battled the deadly Grenfell Tower blaze in London with a visit to show appreciation for their bravery and service. Over the years she has performed at benefits raising money to combat HIV/AIDS and support LGBT rights. She's been involved with Amnesty International, MusiCares and Drop4Drop, a charity started by Konecki that's devoted to expanding access to clean water around the globe. And we can't forget about all of the marriage proposals Adele has aided and abetted at her concerts.
But while she's never hesitated to give back, she has hit the brakes numerous times when it comes to receiving more.
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"What have I said no to? Everything you can imagine," she told Observer Music magazine in 2015 when 25 was coming out. "Literally every f--king thing. Books, clothes, food ranges, drink ranges, fitness ranges...that's probably the funniest. They wanted me to be the face of a car. Toys. Apps. Candles.
"It's like, I don't want to endorse a line of nail varnishes, but thanks for asking. A million pounds to sing at your birthday party? I'd rather do it for free if I'm doing it, cheers."
"I've been offered everything," she reiterated to The New York Times. "And I don't want to water myself down. I want to do one thing. I want to make something. I don't want to be the face of anything."
Considering how ragingly successful 21 was, she even considered not writing a follow-up. But she was motivated to get back in the studio, she said, not to go on about celebrity life or air her grievances about fame, but because she had "no choice."
"Everyone thinks I just disappeared [between 21 and 25], and I didn't. I just went back to real life, because I had to write an album about real life, because otherwise how can you be relatable? If I wrote about being famous—that's f--king boring."
And yet, as she told Observer Music, she liked Angelo being able to see his mum being a "boss" in the studio.
"People think I hate being famous," she told Rolling Stone. "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."
Which is why, at the end of the day, "My career's not my life," she said. "It's my hobby."
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