Rollin’ in the D: The Adele Phenomenon & Black Music
8 Grammys, 3 consecutive number-one singles, and the heart of every music critic on Earth—that’s right, Adele has it all! Seeing Adele sweep every award ceremony and our pockets has been somewhat gratifying for all of her fans, especially considering Adele’s 2008 debut, 19, barely cracked any sales numbers outside of the U.K. upon its initial run.
Listeners have deemed Ms. Adele some kind of modern music hero, yes? She represents not only for the “true” artists refuting the electro-flop-pop movement, but she’s also become a spokesperson for full-figured women, a pioneer of yet another British Invasion, and it’d be absolutely ignorant to not mention she’s done what everyone wishes they could do – kick their heartbreaker’s ass and get paid and praised to do so. Adele’s pushing against a lot of odds, yes, but what about the biggest “odd” of all in the industry (and really the world)? Call it playing the race card, but could Adele honestly have all this success or even half if she were a black woman…you know, a “sista?”
What makes Adele so damn special? Of course she’s got a voice from the GODs, but it’s her “soul” that’s propelled the critical and commercial success attributed to Adele in the past year. Soul is one of those things that separates the Britneys from the Lauryns, but so are sales figures. Jill Scott, India.Arie, and Jazmine Sullivan all have soul, but who’s pushing albums out like Adele? Correct me if I’m wrong, but 21 alone has outsold all three of their careers, combined. Coincidence? Not so much.
Adele’s monstrous takeover is not a strange occurrence, especially in the American market. The fascination with whites being able to perform an act distinctively attributed to blacks is one of those things that always seems to gets pockets emptied out. Need a receipt? My two most favorite examples: Norah Jones and Eminem.
Norah’s venture into jazz with 2002’s Come Away With Me enamored everyone. It was mind-boggling to see a skinny white girl singing jazz like that. Among several honors, the album most notably garnered eight Grammy awards (five for Jones) and a diamond record certification from the Recording Industry Association of America.
Eminem; a white rapper – certainly not the first to do it, but definitely one of the few with the opportunity to capitalize off the heels of the rap momentum. To date, he has two diamond-certified albums, a massive heap of awards, and countless other accolades, including being honored by Rolling Stone as “King of Hip-Hop.”
As extreme as this sounds, supporting artists like Adele at the same magnitude in which artists like Jazmine are ignored continues to enforce notions of white supremacy; not in its radical sense of course, but definitely in the music scene and other arenas of entertainment. The sad truth is that whites and white music are reigning supreme; black music is pacing its way around the pits of the Hot 100 or on the charts designated for black music.
The discouraging facts about sales numbers and chart statistics is that in due time, they will inevitably be more than just a few digits. Statistically speaking, Eminem can be considered the face of hip-hop. In fact, in 50 years when the Internet and sales numbers become that generation’s primary key to the past, Eminem will more than likely be the face of hip-hop. And Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream is going to be equally compared to Michael Jackson’s Bad. Bizarre, but that’s where money goes.
So what if Adele was black? She’d be just another big black woman singing sad songs, something that’s been recognized since the early 20th century. ‘Taint nutin new to de eye, naw? She’d be struggling for even a gold-record certification. Oh, and a number-one single on the Hot 100? In her dreams! She’d get a minor Grammy nomination for Best R&B Album, a Soul Train nomination, and a feature in VIBE. Then when she switched up her sound to have a little more mainstream appeal, she’d lose her core fan base and be just another black soul singer on VH1 Soul. No?