The buzz was all about what Lady Gaga was going to do: She dressed in drag. And Chris Brown flew around on wires, Lil Wayne manipulated his voice with Auto-Tune, Justin Bieber sported glasses, and Beyoncé made headlines with her baby bump. But amid the customary eye candy and bombast on display at the annual MTV Music Video Awards in Los Angeles on August 28, English singer-songwriter Adele stood out with her understated appearance and tear-jerking rendition of her song about lost love, “Someone Like You,” accompanied only by a piano.
Adele received a standing ovation for her performance. Fans may have been especially demonstrative because there was no sign of the laryngitis that caused her to cancel US tour dates earlier in the summer.
Adele, who goes by her first name, has been blowing listeners away with her powerhouse voice ever since her first album, 19, was released in 2008. It took her a while to gain traction in the US; the tipping point came that October on Saturday Night Live, after which “19” immediately rose to the top of the iTunes charts.
Oddly, Adele was not part of the tribute to Amy Winehouse headlined by Bruno Mars, with a cameo by Tony Bennett (who recorded a yet-to-be released duet with Ms. Winehouse). After all, Adele herself wrote on her blog that "Amy paved the way for artists like me."
Citing the pop group Spice Girls as an early influence, Adele also admired R&B singers Aaliyah, Mary J. Blige, and Destiny’s Child. (Incidentally, Beyoncé, formerly of that last group, named Adele as an influence on her album “4.” )
Now, Adele is breaking out of the Blue Eyed Soul track trod by many an English singer and band before her to become a star with her own sound and style. Her song “Rolling in the Deep” has been played across Adult Contemporary, R&B/Hip-Hop, and Alternative radio stations with no signs of slowing down.