JUST months after the release of her debut album, a rather scruffy, chubby teenager called Adele told me she could only ever write sad songs.
It was 13 years ago, and we were on a sofa backstage at the Brit Awards because she didn’t have her own dressing room.
She said: “I like songs that make you cry and feel there’s someone else out there who knows about heart-break. Singing something happy would feel weird to me.”
We talked about her album, 19, her big hit single, Chasing Pavements, and the fact she was terrified to wear a pair of Jimmy Choo heels she had been given to wear.
“I’d rather wear my Converse,” said the girl from a London council estate, who had turned up in leggings and an oversized black knitted jumper.
Within a matter of years, Adele Laurie Blue Adkins was one of the biggest stars in the world, winning 15 Grammys and nine Brit awards.
She also amassed a £140million fortune from three hugely acclaimed albums packed with epic tear-jerkers such as Someone Like You, Set Fire To The Rain and Send My Love (To Your New Lover). But now she is set to risk her status as the Queen of Heartbreak with “joyous” tracks on her new album 30.
Opening up about the new record in Vogue this week — her first interview since 2016 — she revealed: “I feel like this album is self-destruction, then self-reflection and then sort of self-redemption.”
But the multi-million pound question is, will Adele really be able to pull off a happy hit?
Over the past two years she has undergone a huge transformation after divorcing her husband of five years, Simon Konecki, 47, who is the father of her eight-year-old son Angelo.
She lost 7st, took up spiritual healing with self-help guru Glennon Doyle and has become a fixture on the LA social scene with her new boyfriend, top sports agent Rich Paul.
Speaking about the relationship to Vogue, she gushed: “We’re very happy. It feels like it’s consistent and considerate enough that I don’t care who knows. He’s great. He’s so f***ing funny.
He’s so smart, you know.”
One LA-based record producer said: “Adele has never been this happy or felt so good.
To a lot of people, she looks unrecognisable compared to a few years ago.
“Some of the songs she’s been writing are even more unlike her old self because they are real joyous tracks which reflect her as she is right now. Big changes are coming.
It will be very interesting to see how fans respond to Adele’s new direction.
“There are a lot of people who only want songs of suffering from her — but she believes if the songs are good then the public will respond.”
This week Adele fuelled global interest in her new music when blue billboards appeared across the world featuring the number 30 — leading to speculation a new album was coming.
Days later on her social media posts she released a 21-second teaser of her first single in five years, Easy On Me, which is out on Friday.
In the beautifully shot black and white clip, the new slimline, super-glamorous Adele drives down a deserted country road.
With her car’s trailer packed with furniture, sheets of music fly out of the vehicle’s window as she disappears into the distance.
The first few emotive bars of a classic Adele ballad swell up in the background, cutting out just at the point her vocals begin.
According to friends, the title Easy On Me is a reference to advice given to Adele by her guru Glennon to let go of her old self-image and not worry about what people think.
Her last heartbreak album, 25, sold 22million copies, making it the biggest seller of 2015 — and record execs are keen to ensure even bigger sales.
One admits: “There has been pressure to stick to the same formula. But Adele is a different person these days and she is very much determined to prove her fans will accept her change in direction.”
Indeed, Adele is very different to the woman I first met at the Brits, where she was performing with DJ Mark Ronson and her fellow Brit School singer, Amy Winehouse.
Those sad songs were to become her trademark, her ticket to fame and fortune, and she soon realised her career depended on living a life of emotional turmoil.
When writing 25 in 2017, she confessed to Fatboy Slim DJ Norman Cook — her then-neighbour in Brighton — that she was having problems working on the album as she was so happy being a mum.
Cook revealed: “Adele said, ‘I write my best songs when I’m depressed, and I’m just really happy now.’”
But musicians within Adele’s inner circle have stressed that her album will take listeners on a journey following the star’s transformation.
Following on from her other albums, 30 is named after her age when she began writing it.
At that time, Adele was beginning the process of separating from public school-educated charity boss Konecki, with other tracks completed over the next three years.
Adele has also taken advice from her new circle of friends — including chat show king James Corden, TV personality Nicole Richie, rapper Drake and Hollywood actress Jennifer Lawrence.
One of her other celebrity confidants has undergone a major career transformation like Adele.
Pals claim 27-year-old Harry Styles, who has jettisoned his One Direction boyband past to become a credible solo artist, has been “an incredibly positive support” for her.
One friend who has helped on the album says it will take the listener on a journey from sadness and self-reflection to liberation.
The source said: “Adele has been through an incredible amount of emotions, from the pain of divorce to gaining the strength to reinvent herself. She wouldn’t have believed it would be possible a few years ago.”
Even her relationship with her dad, Mark Evans, who walked out on her and mum Penny when Adele was just three, has been the inspiration for a series of highly emotional and poignant tracks.
But Adele revealed last week that she and her father found their peace before his death from cancer earlier this year and she let him hear her latest record.
She said: “I played him my album just a week before he passed, over Zoom. One thing that definitely happened in my divorce was that it humanised my parents for me.
“I went to hell and back. And in that I found the peace to forgive him.
“He was ready to go and he lasted a long time with it. So thank you.”
Adele, who describes her current age as “thirty-free”, wants her album to make a statement about womanhood and empower others to become the person they want to be.
The singer, who guards her privacy fiercely and is reluctant to give interviews, notoriously leaves all decisions on her final album to the last minute, selecting from dozens of songs before making her ultimate choices.
All the song selections are kept secret — even from her famous collaborators.
On 25, Blur’s Damon Albarn and Phil Collins were asked to write for the album but neither made the cut.
“She’s a slippery little fish,” Phil said in an interview at the time. “She got hold of me and asked if I would write with her. She gave me a piece of music to finish but I’m not on it.”
Ultimately, Adele will make the decision whether to include the joyous tracks on her new album or not.
A friend said: “The songs she writes are the soundtrack of her life. In her early thirties she went through massive upheaval but has come into real light and happiness.
The album reflects that and she is sure fans will find it emotional and empowering.”
And while some record bosses think the public only want sad ballads, others say a change in direction will bring her an even bigger audience.
Record producer and X Factor judge Louis Walsh, who has masterminded the careers of Boyzone and Westlife, says: “Adele can do no wrong. Happy or sad, she is one of out greatest songwriters.
“She knows exactly what she is doing and this album will be a massive, massive hit.”
Adele appears in the November issues of British and American Vogue.
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