Saturday, April 9, 2011

Layer 462 . . . Voices, Artists, Adele, Music, Honesty, Authenticity, Expression, Zephania and Springtime


For artists, finding a personal voice is all. This is true for writers, singers, musicians, painters, sculptors, etc. It's discovering what you care about, what you have to express, and finding a way to say it.

It's possible for quite young children to discover a personal voice, given the right opportunities, given plenty of encouragement, and an absence of indoctrination and repression. Many children, however, merely parrot the voices they hear around them. You can hear these parrot voices in both working class and middle class families.

It's possible for young people to produce authentic art. It's also possible, and in our society also extremely likely, that many adults never find within themselves their authentic personal and individual voice.

Adele Adkins' success as an artist is being compared to the Beatles. Adele, like Lennon & McCartney, writes personal and honest songs about what it's like to be young, passionate, glad to be alive, and capable of experiencing extreme emotions.

Not only that - she also, like John & Paul, has a distinctive singing voice that has terrific range, power, emotion and individuality.

In their early days of learning to play in a band Lennon & McCartney, like Jagger & Richards, chose to sing the songs of grown-up black artists - adopting the persona and the 'voices' of people who clearly knew what they were writing songs about - voices full of honest passion, pain, love and celebration. These were black artists who knew about love and sex, about attraction and rejection. Whereas most young white guys in England in the Sixties were more likely to be experts on hanging around the chip shop and going to the youth club.

 No matter. We loved the Beatles belting out Roll Over Beethoven, and the Stones rocking to Round and Around. Reeling and a'rocking - what a crazy sound. However, we loved even more their own songs - their first singles - Love Me Do, Please Please Me, She Loves You, and Help! These were voices full of energy, excitement, longing and lust.

There was an article about Adele Adkins in the Guardian this week. She's an artist who's become a worldwide phenomenon since the release of her album called '21'. Little did I or anyone else suspect what was about to happen to her when I commented on her work back in January (Layer 428)

Adele breaks Madonna's album record and closes in on Bob Marley
London singer's 21 tops UK charts for 10th consecutive week, eclipsing record of material girl at height of popularity in 1990

The 22-year old released 21 in January, since when it has also topped the album charts in 17 European countries and the US.
She has gone from being a promising young artist, who existed slightly in the slipstream of acts like Duffy, to become the biggest act in the UK by a country mile.
The last act to spend 10 straight weeks at no 1 with a studio album was Dire Straits with Brothers in Arms in 1986. The album with the record for the most consecutive weeks at no 1 is Bob Marley and the Wailers' Legend, a compilation which achieved 12 weeks in 1984.
The only disappointment for Adele, who starts a UK tour on Thursday 14 April, was that her song Someone Like You was knocked from the no 1 slot on the singles chart.

Adele matches the Beatles in latest chart success
Singer becomes first living artist since the Fab Four to have two releases in each of the top five singles and album charts at once

Adele has become the first artist since the Beatles to have two top five singles and two top five albums in the charts at the same time. Buoyed by her rendition at last week's Brit awards, the singer's newest single, Someone Like You, jumped 46 spots to become her first No 1 hit. That song joins Rolling in the Deep, which sits at No 4; on the album charts, Adele's first two LPs – 21 and 19 – are also at No 1 and No 4 respectively.
"It's amazing," Adele told BBC Radio 1. "I've never had a No 1 single [before]. I'm probably annoying everyone as well, as I cried at the Brits and everything. I'm just so overwhelmed – I can't believe the response to it."

Adele: the girl with the mighty mouth
As the London singer conquers both Britain and America with a smash-hit No 1 album, we meet a superstar in the making

At live shows, Adele's on-stage banter has become justifiably famous, and most of it is like this, generous and filthy, broken up by bawdy laughter and what-am-I-likes. It has helped distinguish her since she first emerged in 2007, when a combination of a hot performance on late-night TV and then a prize at the 2008 Brit Awards marked her out as important new singing stock. Fours years on and she can still catch you by surprise: that wartime-landlady chitchat, then suddenly the dreadnought vocal.
"I get so nervous on stage I can't help but talk. I try. I try telling my brain: stop sending words to the mouth. But I get nervous and turn into my grandma. Behind the eyes it's pure fear. I find it difficult to believe I'm going to be able to deliver."
A few days earlier, back in London, Adele had most definitely delivered. One of a handful of artists booked to sing live at the 2011 Brits, she took to the stage at the O2 Arena and sang the closing track from 21 (that album already out in the UK and sitting at No 1 in the charts). On the record the song, "Someone Like You", is a simple but affecting ballad about heartbreak: a solid 11th track. Sung live at the Brits, the only accompaniment a piano, it altered a career.
Whoops and shouts from 16,000 in the upper tiers stopped as soon as she got going; on the arena floor even the tables of fizzed-up music execs fell quiet as Adele – now with sad and doleful eyes, now sneering, now fighting back tears – hauled everybody through the mangle of a break-up. It was an astonishing performance, and at the song's end she turned away from the microphone, biting her thumb, trying not to cry in the face of a standing ovation. Glitter fell from the eaves, making her exposed shoulders sparkle. Thousands downloaded a live recording of the track when it was put up for sale after the show. More than 5.5 million watched a YouTube upload of the performance, links to it fired about over email for the rest of the week. I was one of those emailers. Subject line: Bloody hell.
Before dawn [in New York] she'll be woken by her manager who'll tell her that she's beaten Gaga and gone to No 1 in the UK for the first time in her career. She'll cry and call her mum. Then she'll find out that the Brits performance so jolted the public that her previous single, "Rolling in the Deep", has moved up to No 4; that her album, 21, has held fast at No 1 in the album chart, and that the album she released three years ago, 19, has reached No 4. She'll end the day with two albums and two singles in the top five, the first time such a thing has happened for 50 years.
Assume, by the way, that Adele is swearing at all times. Between words, between syllables, she effs as easily as she laughs, and it would not be easy putting Adele, as Adele speaks, into print.
There's been a lot of red pen, but on occasion she needs to be done proper justice. "Can somebody get me a facking screwdriver? I'm going for the facking wiring. Doing my facking 'ead in. Unbe-facking-lievable."
It all started for Adele on TV, with a Beatle. Some of her early songs caught the attention of producers on Later… with Jools Holland in summer 2007, and without a release to her name she was plopped on an episode to sing next to Paul McCartney. Heart-flutters, light-headedness – but Adele delivered and, not for the last time, charmed an audience meant for someone more famous.
A buzz picked up around her: killer voice, that cherubic face and unapologetic size-14-ness, her oozy sass. When it was announced that she'd won a newly minted Brit award in late 2007, something vaguely titled "the critics' choice award", her debut album was still weeks away. But she'd released a single, "Hometown Glory", the cover of which showed Adele looking soulful in a London caff and sharing foreground space with a bottle of Sarson's vinegar. A certain tone had been established.

The Official Charts Company announced that Adele is the first living artist to achieve the feat of two top five hits in both the UK Singles Chart and the UK Album Chart simultaneously since The Beatles in 1964. The album 21 debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200, with first week sales of 352,000 copies. It is now the biggest-selling album download of all-time in the UK. In its tenth consecutive week at number one in the UK, 21 overtook Madonna’s The Immaculate Collection for longest consecutive weeks at number one by a solo female artist, and has become the album to have the longest run at number one in twenty five years since Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms in 1986. - Wikipedia



I've written about the brilliant Benjamin Zephania before, and today he was on the radio talking about his 'inheritance tracks'.

One of his teachers had told him that he was a 'born failure'. However, he then heard a record called "Young, Gifted and Black" . . .

The track he chose to 'pass on' is Labi Siffre's "Something So Strong" - a song about liberation and a people's determination to be liberated - "An amazingly uplifting song."

BZ's website:

The more you refuse to hear my voice
The louder I will sing
You hide behind walls of Jericho
Your lies will come tumbling
Deny my place in time
You squander wealth that's mine
My light will shine so brightly
It will blind you
Cos there's......

Something inside so strong
I know that I can make it
Tho' you're doing me wrong, so wrong
You thought that my pride was gone
Oh no, something inside so strong
Oh oh oh oh oh something inside so strong


Beautiful Springtime

By the way - it's full-on Springtime, and it's glorious. This whole week has been amazing for sunshine and temperatures in the top teens and low twenties. It's been possible to sit out in the sun and get the beginnings of a tan. It's brilliant to feel the sun again.

All around there are flowering cherries, plums, apples and magnolias in full magnificent blossom, and there are still many daffodils and tulips in their prime.

Just starting now are bluebells - there were quite a few coming out in the cemetery yesterday. Next to come out will be the lilacs and ceanothus.


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