Dozens of British artists share Adele’s origins—BRIT School, MySpace, pop stardom—but it takes rare talent to have your voice declared timeless in your career’s first flush. Adele honed hers as a kid in her North London bedroom, imitating Etta James every night for an hour. But as soon as she made her televised debut in 2007 (on Later...With Jools Holland), all potential comparisons evaporated: This girl with the whopping hoop earrings and a pub landlady’s brashness had something unique. Heartbreak, indignation and regret all found a natural home in her regal mezzo-soprano, the instrument that powered her 2008 debut album, 19, and took influence from the American South on 2011’s 21. Both of these albums broke records for breaking records, and made a subsequent operation on Adele’s vocal cords a matter of global import. She recovered immaculately—for proof, watch her comeback performance of “Rolling in the Deep” at the 2012 Grammys—and it took just one word to reintroduce her in 2015. “Hello,” she sang during an X Factor ad break, unveiling her world-conquering single and third album, 25, in the process. Like its predecessors, 25 upended 21st-century metrics and made Adele the first artist to earn the top-selling album of a calendar year three times. She’s now a mother, and her twenties are behind her. But if any voice were ever capable of carrying its owner into maturity, it’s hers.
HOMETOWNTottenham, London, England
BORNMay 5, 1988