New music talent flowed in abundance during the past year, so naming one artist as the Best New Musician of 2008 is no easy task. But, real talent has a way of standing out once media hype and performance enhancements are stripped away. After narrowing eligible candidates to those whose albums were actually introduced in 2008, performs as a musician and not just a stage personality, and has the ability to duplicate studio perfection in a live performance, only one artist remained on the list. That artist, and the Best New Musician of 2008, is Adele Adkins.
Other new artists enjoyed greater commercial success this year. Taylor Swift, Duffy, and Jazmine Sullivan will join Adele as nominees for Best New Artist at the 2009 Grammy Awards. But, as talented as they are, only Adele encompasses the complete package of performing artist, with the ability to both play and sing music that she writes and composes.
The Year of Adele Adkins
Adele Laurie Blue Adkins was born in North London on May 5, 1988. She attended the same performing arts academy as Amy Winehouse and Leona Lewis, and became the first recipient of the BRIT Awards “Critic’s Choice”, awarded to artists who, at the time of their nomination, had not released an album. And though Adele has long been under the music radar in England, her talent has only recently been discovered outside of Great Britain.
From the moment the first note escapes her vocal chords, Adele Adkins demands your attention. Her throaty, new school “Queen of Soul” emotion is reminiscent of, well, the “Queen of Soul” herself. And she credits her self-described “heartbroken soul” singing style to such jazz and blues influences as Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald. Considering that Adele is all of 20 years old, it’s almost a wonder that she even knows who Etta and Ella are. But, the influences are evident, and so is the talent.
Like many of the most recognizable celebrities, Adele Adkins prefers using just her first name as a stage name, performing as simply as Adele. But, after listening to her belt out just a few notes, her name will not be easily forgotten. Unlike less gifted artists who hide behind artificial voice enhancements in the recording studio and cover inadequate stage performances with highly choreographed dance segments, all Adele has to do is open her mouth and sing.
Adele released her first album of original material in February of 2008. The album, “19”, contained the single “Chasing Pavements”, which hit number two on the British charts, and remained in the top ten there for 14 weeks. Though she seemed not to have received widespread acceptance in the U.S., an October appearance on Saturday Night Live boosted “Chasing Pavements” to number 25 on the Billboard charts. Other U.S. engagements, such as appearing on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno, helped generate more buzz for her immeasurable talent, and as of December, her video for “Chasing Pavements” had become the most played video on VH1 for 2008.
Adele is equally as adept at covering songs by other artists as she is at performing her own music, and when she does, she has the unique ability to make that song her own. Her covers of “Fool That I am” by Etta James and Vann Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” have earned critical acclaim. And her cover of “Make You Feel My Love”, a Bob Dylan classic, will soon be released as a single.
Vocalists generally have an advantage in gaining exposure over non-vocal musicians. This establishes wider distribution for their product and a greater public awareness for their music. And, although the voice is technically considered an instrument, creating separate distinctions between new vocal and non-vocal musicians seems only fair in when determining the best new musician.
What also makes Adele deserving of Best New Musician is that she is not just another celebrity wannabe, but a solid guitarist whose playing compliments her singing. She strums her instrument as if it is a part of the story telling process, without using it to drown out the power of her voice. She also happens to write the music that she performs, giving her performance a much more personal feel.
Many of the most promising new artists have not benefited from high powered marketing and promotional campaigns. This limits them from achieving the level of commercial success that artists in more mainstream music genres experience. Adele Adkins certainly falls into that category.
Though others may have achieved greater commercial success in 2008, the year will best be remembered as the one that produced Adele Adkins. She is a an artist in every sense of the word, and has the talent to make people remember her for years to come. She sings with a passion that makes anyone who listens feel that she believes in her music, and she has the ability to make others believe also. What more could we ask of an artist? What other qualities are more deserving of Best New Musician?