3/03/2012
Everybody wants to be like Adele

For all intents and purposes, I'm still an American Idol pundit, if only for the people on my Twitter timeline. No, I'm not making myself out as a great, but people will ask me questions, and I will still answer said questions. With thoughts, not fact. I did say "pundit", right?

Anyway, I was watching the female semifinalists a couple of days back. My two bets this year - Elise Testone and Erika Van Pelt - were singing, and there's the fact that there's yet another Filipino-American hopeful, Jessica Sanchez. Inevitably I'd think back to the previous season's females. Inevitably I'd have a thought about it.

Adele's impact on Idol: lots of big-voice female balladeers this season, I tweeted.

Last year's was a hodge-podge. We had the usual belters, the cool-sounding indie-types, the wildly experimental ones, a country Barbie girl, and of course, the lovely Haley Reinhart. This year's female semifinalists fell squarely in two categories: big vocals, or country crooners who can do big vocals. Add to that everybody's insistence on singing Adele this week - four performances, two of which are of the same song - and you have the inevitable inference: everybody wants to be like Adele.

I don't know what to make of it.

The music snobs nowadays think Adele is shit. Then again, they're the people who generally shun anything that's very much in the mainstream. They're also the same people who thought Adele was wonderful when, five years ago, she came out with Hometown Glory.

I was one of those people. (And yes, I know, I sound very pompous at the moment.) Having listened to a fair bit of 6 Music back in college I decided to use that song for our advanced radio production project. You know, when we had to do made-up airchecks equivalent to 24 hours of a made-up radio station's output, plus all the paperwork. I added Hometown Glory to the "upfront" playlist - six new, relatively obscure songs that has to be played once every six hours, so obscure that it had Japanese artist Tujiko Noriko on it - because I liked the song. Adele's big, soaring, vulnerable vocal. Thought she deserved to make it big here, but felt she wouldn't because radio stations here wouldn't touch her at all.

Now that I've thought of it, I wonder what Mooie thought of Adele then. I remember Jose refer to Hometown Glory as one of the "songs our boss forces us to play" or something like it.

Chasing Pavements, the second single off her debut album 19, was a moderate hit here, although I didn't hear much of it, at least not as much as Make You Feel My Love, which was the fourth single. The album was a hit, inevitably, in the UK, but nothing prepared all of us for the follow-up album, 21. Or all those endless Rolling in the Deep covers. I'll admit, when Haley did it back on Idol last year, I was ready to squirm.

It's been a year since 21 was released, and Adele is now very, very ubiquitous. The music snobs call her shit. Then again, things only get called "shit" because there's too much of it, else we'd only call it "poop". I don't think Adele is shit; I thought her second album took things to the next level. I'm frustrated, however, that it took 21 to force record stores here to stock 19. And you wonder why piracy is such an unstoppable force here.

Anyway, Idol, the semifinalists this season, big-voice female balladeers. You only have to watch the girls again. Or, at least, two performances of the same Adele song: Jen Hirsh and Elise Testone both did One and Only; the former was vocally proficient but too stiff, while the latter had some misses but brought some character. Most of the other ladies went the same direction: Brielle Von Hugel, Erika Van PeltShannon Ma... sorry, I yawned. And Brielle Von Hugel, again. And that kid who bled to death with his song choice. Suddenly you get why the snobs think she's shit: she's everywhere. She's everywhere, unlike their beloved (insert buzz band here). Unlike Adele, (insert buzz band here) is something special. You wouldn't expect your mother to attempt to sing Someone Like You, yes?

My mother wants to. She had me print out the song's lyrics last night. She had me play my copy of 21 in the living room this morning. Track 11 came on, and she grabbed my printout, and tried to at least have a grasp of it. And then she complained. "Ang hirap nito!" she said, just as Adele goes I hate to turn up out of the blue, uninvited, I couldn't stay away, I couldn't fight it - that part's phrasing is hard to pick up, more so the point when she soars in the chorus; lesser singers would go for a key change there, and my mom was forced to go that direction too.

And then she cites this little girl on YouTube (ack, do you expect us to think she's cute?) who got that convoluted phrasing bit spot on, or so she says. Yes, everybody wants to be like Adele. But nobody can be her. So maybe the best you all can do is hope she comes to Manila and sings for all of you. But remember, I knew her first, more or less.

And your responses...

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