British songstress Adele is one of the only artists in the contemporary music world who can achieve popularity across multiple genres and act as a symbol that strong vocals and a lack of Auto-Tune in music is still alive. Recently, her voice, truly a gift to us all, was threatened.
Last week, Adele underwent surgery to reverse a potential vocal hemorrhage. Left unattended, the polyp could have ruined the "Rolling in the Deep" singer's future as an artist.
Luckily, the surgery was successful and, after a period of recovery, she will be able to return to singing live and recording early next year. You could hear the sigh of relief across the world when that announcement was made.
Adele is the latest in a line of musical national treasures from the United Kingdom, a legacy that extends from The Beatles to, most recently and most tragically, Amy Winehouse.
Like most of Britain's brightest stars, Adele achieved massive success in the U.S., with her album "21" reaching the top of the Billboard 200 an incredible 13 times and her singles, "Rolling in the Deep" and "Someone Like You," hitting number one on Billboard's Hot 100 12 times collectively. She is an unquantifiable star on both sides of the Atlantic and the idea of losing her iconic voice to a medical problem is enough to declare a national state of emergency.
Hyperbole? Maybe. But no more Adele, and we'd all doomed to a pop music world full of Ke$has and Katy Perrys.
It's something of a miracle that Adele is doing as well as she is in the modern music world. An artist who focuses very little on the production of a song, leaving her vocals as the centerpiece, is almost unheard of in a music industry that values a strong female voice more for singing a hook on a rap song than on its own record. Kelly Clarkson, one of the strongest voices in the music industry today and an American icon (some might even call her an "American Idol"), can't manage to secure a number one spot with a killer new album ("Stronger") or a fun single ("Mr. Know It All").
Yet Adele, someone who hardly fits the highly sexualized, skinny mold we carve out for our pop stars, has suddenly become the biggest thing in the pop music business. It's truly unfathomable and it's all the more reason that she needs to stick around.
Personally, I've loved Adele from the first moment I heard "Hometown Glory." The quiet track off her last album, "19," laments returning home after time away. Set to just a piano, Adele's vocals absolutely soar, much like they do on her most recent hit (and my personal favorite from her canon), "Someone Like You." I appreciate the simplicity Adele brings to her music. It's the vocals and the lyrics you should pay mind to, and she demands your attention with both. By that same token, she's impossible to cover - every reality singing competition contestant who attempts to reach the peaks of her vocal prowess is doomed to fall short due to a lack of emotional connection.
It is that combination of emotional and technical prowess that makes "21" a near masterpiece, front to back. While there are definitely tracks I could take or leave (the Lifetime Movie-esque "Turning Tables" comes to mind), the songs are intimately personal and infinitely listenable.
These are sentiments shared not just by other college students, not just by other pop music fans, but by all kinds of people. Adele's messages of being burned by a lover ring true for scores of fans. Her sound isn't old, nor is it young. It isn't too indie, nor is it too pop. It's for everyone in the best way - anyone can identify and sing along. Everyone knows that lover who they truly could have had it all with; everyone knows the ex they meet years down the line and for whom they wish nothing but the best, despite the pain.
There's nothing wrong with dance music, nor am I suggesting that all of pop music should conform to the Adele mold. In fact, the reason we need Adele's voice to stay pristine is because she is the exception. She's someone distinctive. She's someone who will be firmly ingrained in American pop culture for some time. She's not just a national treasure, she's internationally loved.