Adele could drop a new album in the middle of the night, with zero publicity, and still be guaranteed the biggest release of the year. And yet, ahead of her fourth studio album, 30, the London-born singer opted to fondle pork pies for a Vogue taste test, debate EastEnders versus Coronation Street on Instagram Live, and submit to a no-holds-barred interview with Oprah Winfrey.
Adele: One Night Only aired in the US on Sunday night, combining clips from a chat in Oprah’s rose garden with performances of new songs and old favourites at an intimate concert in Los Angeles’ Griffith Observatory.
The interview was another Oprah classic, filled with personal reflections, a few tears and Adele’s signature humour. This time, however, Oprah didn’t have to push quite as hard as with previous interviewees Meghan Markle, Lance Armstrong or Michael Jackson.
Though notoriously private, Adele (33) has been candid about the real-life inspiration behind her music, and after four years away, she had some things she wanted to get off her chest. She told Oprah: “Nothing is as scary as what I’ve been through over the last two, three years behind closed doors. So I’m not frightened about what people might or might not know.”
Oprah got straight into it, asking about the end of Adele’s marriage in 2019 – a subject of much tabloid speculation, with fans eagerly anticipating the “divorce album” from music’s greatest chronicler of heartbreak. But, Adele made clear, this album isn’t so much about her divorce from Simon Konecki – her husband of two years and partner of seven – as “divorcing myself”.
She told Oprah she had been “obsessed” with the idea of the nuclear family and, following the breakdown of her parents’ marriage, she had been determined not to repeat the pattern for her own child, Angelo, now nine years old.
“From a very young age I promised myself that when I have kids, we’d stay together,” Adele explained. “And I tried for a really, really long time and then I was just so disappointed for my son. I was so disappointed for myself.”
The discussion was honest and very revealing, without giving away specific details about why the marriage failed. Adele admitted she was “embarrassed” she hadn’t been able to make it work, but that she trusts her ex-husband completely, and the two remain close – quite literally, as he now lives just across the road.
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What she had a harder time reconciling with is her decision to “dismantle my child’s life for my own”, although Adele said she knew her son wouldn’t be happy seeing her “ignoring [her] own happiness”. She hopes that when he’s older, he can listen to 30 and understand why she reached that decision.
Adele also spoke about making peace with her estranged father, Mark Evans, before his death last May. She referred to her father’s “absolutely lack of presence and effort” when she was growing up, and said that part of the reason she recently gave up alcohol was because “it took my dad from me”.
Once she heard he was ill with bowel cancer, however, she visited his home in Wales. She recalled playing him new track To Be Loved – only the second song of hers he had heard – which allowed her to articulate feelings she couldn’t share in words.
Resolving the issues with her father, Adele noted, helped her to experience a “loving relationship” for the first time, with sports agent Rich Paul. Another thing that she said gave her “real purpose” was working out the cause of her much-discussed weight loss.
Adele emphasised that she hadn’t been aiming to lose weight, but rather to give her days structure and discipline, and that being in the gym – deadlifting an impressive 160lbs – was the only place where she didn’t feel anxiety. Asked about the public response to her 100lb weight loss, she said: “I was body positive then and I’m body positive now. It’s not my job to validate how people feel about their bodies… I’m trying to sort my own life out.”
As the interview came to a close, Oprah wondered whether Adele would still be able to write from this new happy space. “I hope so,” Adele replied, a little uncertainly. Any doubts were assuaged when she offered the mantra that guides her now: “If you’re not feeling everything, you’re missing everything.”
• An Audience with Adele airs on Virgin Media One at 7.25pm this Sunday