Apparently, while working with Bruno Mars on “All I Ask,” a ballad from her highly anticipated new album, 25, Adele got into a disagreement with her coauthor over a single line of the lyrics. She wanted to keep it; he wanted to cut it. It stayed in, and eventually became Mars’s favorite moment on the track. Adele’s response? “She told me she hopes I’m in the audience when she sings that line live,” says Mars, “... so she can flick me off.”
There are playful anecdotes like this throughout Adele’s new Rolling Stone cover story, the most in-depth interview she’s done in forever. It paints her as a pop star we normals would actually feel comfortable hanging out with. For one, she runs errands while driving the sort of car a suburban mom would drive—because she is one—and rarely censors herself for the sake of whoever’s riding shotgun. The word fuck appears 30 times in various iterations here—fuck, motherfucker, fucking—and she’s quick to both laugh at herself and stand up for herself.
Example A: Here she is explaining what feminism means to her.
She recalls not being taken seriously in business meetings full of men, of encountering an attitude of “what do you know?” “It’s like, ‘Well, I’m the fucking artist,’ “ she says, sitting up straighter in her chair. “ ‘So I fucking know everything, actually! Like, don’t fucking talk down to me!’ ”
Example B: On working with Sia.
“I actually love the dynamic of us both being in there and just fucking being bossy,” she says with a laugh. “And it’s all these male producers, and they’re all fucking shitting themselves ’cause we’re in there.”
It’s delightful to see such a traditionally elusive pop icon be so blunt about the mythology that surrounds her. She’s well aware that she’s been positioned as “classy” or “mature for her age” by fans and old, white writer dudes, and that she’s an easy bludgeon critics can wield against young, female, far more exhibitionistic artists like Miley Cyrus. While calling bullshit on the sophistication that’s projected onto her, she points out the obvious body-image conflation that comes with the argument:
“I’d rather not be the person that everyone gets pitted against,” she says. “If they do decide to get their body out, I would rather not be that person because that’s just pitting a woman against another woman, and I don’t hold any more moral high ground than anyone else. So that has pissed me off a bit. Not that I’m going to start getting my tits out now!”
She continues to think out loud. “Would I show my body off if I was thinner? Probably not, because my body is mine. But sometimes I’m curious to know if I would have been as successful if I wasn’t plus-size. I think I remind everyone of themselves. Not saying everyone is my size, but it’s relatable because I’m not perfect, and I think a lot of people are portrayed as perfect, unreachable and untouchable.”
But beyond the snark directed at her critics, Adele is refreshingly open about the trouble she ran into while making 25. She addresses her failed collaboration with Damon Albarn, and his quotes to the press that she was “insecure” and “middle of the road”; she calls it “one of those, ‘don’t meet your idol’ moments.” But she also confronts her insecurities head-on: Most specifically, she’s worried she might be too happy now to make the sort of solace-seeking singles that built her career:
“... with me being in a brighter space with my love life, will my fans be disappointed in me that I can’t fix their broken hearts with a song that is brokenhearted? I don’t want to disappoint them. But at the same time, I can’t write a sad record, like, for everyone else. That’s not a real record, unless I am sad.”
She goes into that whole thing in some depth, saying that the process that followed when she tried to write happier, more expansive pop songs felt a bit shallow. And that her confidant and 21 advisor Rick Rubin basically told her as much:
“I actually took it really well,” Adele recalls. “When he said it, I couldn’t work out if I was, like, devastated, going to cry my eyes out. And then I just said, ‘I don’t really believe myself right now, so I’m not surprised you fucking said that.’” Rubin and Dickins both told her it sounded like she was rushing. “And that’s not a way to make any kind of record,” she says. “Especially when I’m trying to fucking follow 21. So I went back to the drawing board, really.”
There’s a lot on the line for Adele. Her last album holds the record for the highest-selling album of the past decade, a remarkable feat that makes expectations for the follow-up incredibly high. But she’s off to a good start: “Hello,” the album’s breakout single and her first new track in three years, had the biggest sales week since Elton John’s 1997 “Candle in the Wind” remix tribute to Princess Diana. “Hello” also had the biggest digital release in U.S. history, while debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
That said, it’s equally remarkable just how removed from the spotlight Adele has managed to be over the past few years. She won an Oscar for her work on the theme song of the last Bond movie, Skyfall, but otherwise has avoided stages and, even now, hasn’t done much marketing or press for 25, which is due November 20. (For context: Taylor Swift spent the weeks leading up to last year’s 1989—another album about being 25!—creating an Instagram collage of what her “normal life” looked like at that age. Whereas Adele seems to be content with just going ahead and living hers.)
It’s nice—it’s fun, really—to get to see one of music’s most unequivocally beloved pop stars in this light. She goads Rolling Stone writer Brian Hiatt, who is watching his carb intake, to have a “cheat day” with her and “go HAM,” jokes that the restaurant had once shown anime porn as she ate sushi, and switches her drink order from an amaretto sour to sauvignon blanc just so that she doesn’t get too drunk and reveal too much.
Most importantly, she shares the same fear the rest of us do when we go to see live music:
“It’s like when I go and see certain bands — not to name any — and they don’t play their fucking biggest hit? Cunts! That really annoys me.”
Stars! They’re just like us.
Photo via Getty.