When Adele is on, she’s the biggest pop star on the planet. But when she’s gone, she’s practically invisible. That’s why the singer’s first sit-down interview in five years, a profile in the upcoming issue of both U.K. and American Vogue, is like a deep, refreshing drink for her fans after an endless drought.
Speaking to the magazine in the wind-up to the release of her upcoming single, the gentle piano ballad “Easy On Me,” due out Oct. 15, the singer opened up about why she thinks this is her finest work to date and how the emotional rollercoaster she’s been on since the release of 2015’s record-smashing 25 has brought her to a more centered, peaceful place.
“It’s sensitive for me, this record, just in how much I love it,” she said of the collection fans are speculating will be called 30 in keeping with the number-focused titles of previous efforts 19, 21 and 25. “I always say that 21 doesn’t belong to me anymore. Everyone else took it into their hearts so much. I’m not letting go of this one. This is my album. I want to share myself with everyone, but I don’t think I’ll ever let this one go.”
As to where her head is at on the new collection, Adele said that she feels like it is “self-destruction… then self-reflection and then sort of self-redemption. But I feel ready. I really want people to hear my side of the story this time.”
After prompting from her therapist, the singer, 33, said she dove into the loneliness in her childhood and unexplored issues with her father that she’d been avoiding as an adult, which led her to some revelations about the patterns in her love life that then seeped into the new music. “Not being sure if someone who is supposed to love you loves you, and doesn’t prioritize you in any capacity when you’re little. You assume it and get used to it,” she told the magazine. “So my relationship with men in general, my entire life, has always been: You’re going to hurt me, so I’ll hurt you first. It’s just toxic and prevents me from actually finding any happiness.”
Famous for songs about heartbreak and heartache, the private star — who split from ex-husband Simon Konecki, her longtime partner and father of her 8-year-old son, in 2019 — did open up about the joy she’s found with her current boyfriend, mega-sports agent Richard Paul (LeBron James, Anthony Davis), 39, even as she said “99.9 percent of the stories” that have been written about her and her love life are “absolutely” made up.
“Rich just incredibly arrived. I don’t feel anxious or nervous or frazzled. It’s quite the opposite,” she said of her new love. ” It’s wild — and there is no second-guessing. I’m a 33-year-old divorced mother of a son, who’s actually in charge. The last thing I need is someone who doesn’t know where they’re at, or what they want. I know what I want. And I really know what I don’t want.”
If anything, she said the new album was recorded for her son, getting a bit misty-eyed as she recalled the many questions he had about her split from Konecki. “Really good questions, really innocent questions, that I just don’t have an answer for,” she said, including, “‘Why can’t you still live together?’” For the record, she noted, Konecki lives just across the way from her Los Angeles home so things changed as little as possible for their son.
She decided that she wanted to explain some of the complications of grown-up love through the record, so that when her boy is in his 20s or 30s he can understand who she is now and why she “voluntarily chose to dismantle his entire life in the pursuit of my own happiness. It made him really unhappy sometimes. And that’s a real wound for me that I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to heal.”
The album is also intended as a kind of love how-to for her son, with lessons about how Adele expects him to treat his partners, noting that “after going through a divorce, my requirements are sky-high. There’s a very big pair of shoes to fill.”
She then describes how she wrote the album’s first song back in 2018, about leaving the marriage and asking for others to be kind to her, and how she didn’t write another for six months because she felt, “OK, well, I’ve said it all.” The first vocal, which came to her while singing a cappella in the shower, arrived smack-dab between the point where she thanked Konecki at the 2017 Grammy Awards and their split two years later.
But if you’re expecting the “divorce record,” Adele assures you that this is not it. “I assumed it would be about my divorce, but it’s kind of not,” she said, adding that the one song she mentioned was the only track specifically about her split, though the writer noted that four others she previewed all sounded pretty “divorce-y” as well. The range of the album is described elsewhere as stretching from “her usual singer-songwriter gear to midnight chanteuse to chilled Balearic club at sundown,” an eclectic mix that she is still shrouding in secrecy for now.
The writer teased another, atypical song as being kind of Goldfrapp-y, with Adele’s voice “sampled and resampled over a hypnotic beat.” The album’s final song, a seven-minute opus, reportedly sounds like “a string-swirling, Garland-invoking, jazzy, campy, swooning delight, packed with world-weary end-of-the-show reflection, and featuring a vocal for the ages.”
What she did reveal is that the collection was created with her frequent collaborator Greg Kurstin, as well as pop hit machine Max Martin, Oscar-winning composer Ludwig Göransson and her new favorite Inflo, a London-based producer best known for working with Little Simz and at the helm of the mysterious collective Sault. And, as is typical on Adele’s albums, there are no featured singers. “It’s not that I don’t want to,” Adele said of going it alone vocally in an era of so many superstar pop summits. “It’s not calculated. It’s just never been right for some reason.”
The chat inevitably touches on the the singer’s well-documented body transformation, which she said found her losing around 100 pounds over the course of two years. It’s a subject she knows will come up endlessly during the promotional cycle, but which she doesn’t seem keen to focus on. “My body’s been objectified my entire career. It’s not just now. I understand why it’s a shock. I understand why some women especially were hurt,” she said, speaking of some of the reaction to a May 2020 picture of her looking more slim that garnered more than 12 million likes and a quarter-million comments.
“Visually I represented a lot of women. But I’m still the same person,” she said. “And the worst part of the whole thing was that the most brutal conversations were being had by other women about my body. I was very f—ing disappointed with that. That hurt my feelings.” The weight loss was in part due to her anxiety, she said, specifying that the two- to three-times-a-day workouts that she was doing were not about losing weight, but about “becoming strong” and giving herself as much time as possible every day without her smartphone.
“But I needed to get addicted to something to get my mind right,” she said. “It could have been knitting, but it wasn’t. People are shocked because I didn’t share my ‘journey.’ They’re used to people documenting everything on Instagram, and most people in my position would get a big deal with a diet brand. I couldn’t give a flying f—. I did it for myself and not anyone else. So why would I ever share it? I don’t find it fascinating. It’s my body.”