SHOCKING news – Blur frontman Damon Albarn thinks that the new Adele album will sound “middle of the road”. Well split me in half and sprinkle me with cinnamon.
I thought Adele being middle of the road was pretty much the point of Adele, along with the reason for her astonishing success.
People adore Adele for many reasons, and I can fathom few of them, but the way she stands astride that line down in middle of the road is one of them. She has a great voice and can belt out a song. And people seem to love that.
Everyone does become very excitable around Adele, and a touch fawning too, I’d say. The other morning there was a lengthy piece on Woman’s Hour – look, I was washing up, okay – in which the music journalist and academic Jude Rogers talked enthusiastically about Adele. The singer herself was nowhere to be seen or indeed heard. This was just a studio love-in about the fantastic nature of Adele. It was all a bit hagiographic for my tastes, but there you go.
Adele not being present on Woman’s Hour added up, in the sense that her popularity is allied to a certain reticence. Although she has a lively presence, and said also to be gloriously profane, she mostly prefers to let her music speak for her, which is fair enough.
Going by reported comments in the media, there has been a falling out or cooling off between Adele and Damon after they collaborated on her forthcoming album, 25.
Adele is reported to ‘regret’ working with Albarn, while he has been quoted as saying that their sessions had not been a success – ‘Will she use any of the stuff? I don’t think so.’
As well as saying the album would be middle of the road, Albarn added: ‘The thing is, she’s very insecure. And she doesn’t need to be, she’s still so young.’
For her part, Adele is said to have taken exception to being labelled insecure, telling Rolling Stone magazine: ‘It ended up being one of those ‘don’t meet you idol’ moments. The saddest thing was that I was such a big Blur fan growing. But it was sad, and I regret hanging out with him.’
Collaboration can be the soul of good music – just ask Jools Holland, who has pretty much built a career out of working with often unlikely seeming musical partners.
Yet some unions are hard to take. Even all these years later, I still struggle to think of Van Morrison singing with Cliff Richard on Whenever God Shines His Light. Van has always been a hero to me – an irascible soul, I know, but his often lovely music has been there for me since the 1970s – and that pairing just didn’t seem right, even if Van was in his God phase at the time.
For his most recent album, Duets, Van took this idea further, re-recording a collection of his songs with assorted guests, but not Cliff this time.
The unsuccessful partnering of Adele and Damon set me thinking about/Googling other strange partnerships. Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue on Where The Wild Roses Grow, which works because of the contrast between the two personalities, one seeming pure and good natured, the other rough and a bit of a junkie, to use Cave’s own description. And what a great melding of voices too, the one slight and sweet, the other deep and dark.
David Bowie and Bing Crosbie doing a Christmas get-together in 1977, a month before Crosbie died. ‘You’re the one that sings, right?’ says Bowie, turning up at Bing’s door, adding that he sings too. A true slice of Christmas cheese.
And more recently Tony Bennett singing with Lady Gaga on The Lady Is A Tramp – which is great fun, especially on the video, on which Gaga truly gets into the swing, blue wig and whisky glass and all. She can sing, she can act up – and Bennett is just as cool and metronomic as he’s ever been.
One of my favourite collaborations is a familial one: Richard Thompson and his son, Teddy, singing Persuasion, a song written by Thompson Snr and Tim Finn.
If you go online you will find assorted versions, including the pair singing at Glastonbury in 2010. Well work a look.