The Great White Hype: Adele’s 19

SOME DAYS it feels like we’ve time-traveled back to the early Eighties, when every other month coughed up a new BEST WHITE SOUL VOICE YOU’VE NEVER HEARD, a boy or girl who’d in due course turn out to be JUST ANOTHER CRAVENLY AMBITIOUS POP STAR YOU WISHED WOULD GO AWAY.

They all got the treatment – Mick Hucknall and Marti Pellow, Alison Moyet and Lisa Stansfield – and nobody gives two figs for them today. Then again, nobody seems to give much of a toss about clotted-cream soulstress Joss Stone these days.

In the wake of Winehouse – who actually did possess the Best White Soul Voice You’d Never Heard – labels great and small scrambled to find their own mockney-soul diarist-exhibitionists. The biggest hype thus far has been bestowed on 19-year-old Adele Adkins, pride of southeast London and owner of a larynx whose vocal range uncannily mimics the catch-in-the-throat timbre of the amazing Ms. Winehouse. Actually, what Adkins sounds like is Amy W infused with the suburban street smarts of Jamie T, who released the first Adele single (‘Hometown Glory’) on his own Pacemaker label.

Allow this gnarled rock-scribe veteran a measure of scepticism. Adele can certainly sing, but 19 positively reeks of some A&R trendhound making it his biz to sign The New Amy and not resting till s/he’s found the right binge-drinking chick to fit the bill. Where Back to Black sounded emotionally and musically true, almost everything on the covers-all-bases 19 sounds like it was osmotically absorbed at the Brit School.

Veering between faux-soul and Hoxton hipness, Adele clearly hasn’t found her own voice yet. The acoustic tracks that open 19 are awful: ‘Daydreamer’, about a bisexual beau, is ickily trite, ‘Best for Last’ barely fit for Heather Small. New single ‘Chasing Pavements’ is a crisp little pop song that gives rival Duffy a run for her money in the sub-Dusty stakes but no more than that. ‘Cold Shoulder’ is Lisa Stansfield via Winehouse; ‘Crazy for You’ wants to be Patsy Cline via Etta James but isn’t. The cover of Dylan’s ‘Make You Feel My Love’ is as emotionally vapid as Trisha Yearwood’s.

Maybe Adkins just needs to live a little longer – or at least find her own Blake Fielder-Civil. It takes more than clubbing with Kate Nash and Jack Peñate to be a genuine contender.

© Barney HoskynsUncut, March 2008

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