by: Shelby Mongan
Because I’m a pop culture-aware human being with two ears and a heart, I’m on Team Adele. I chased pavements back in the day, I set fire to the rain, I rolled in the deep, and I sobbed uncontrolab— err, I found someone like you. I stand behind my placement of 21 on my Top Ten Albums of 2012 list. She is talented, she is entertaining and she is a true star.
But let’s be honest, people: she really isn’t the second coming.
Murmurs of her prowess from the very beginning have since morphed into declarations that Adele is going to change the face of music. She combined a stunning voice with the ability to write relatable, yet powerful lyrics. She is beautiful but eschews anything regarding physical appearance in place of her music. She’s verbally squared off with icons from Karl Lagerfeld to Lady Gaga when it comes to her weight. She seems like the perfect antihero, the remedy for a music industry saturated more with appearances and less with talent. I don’t blame people for wanting someone to usher in a new way of thinking.
I just don’t think Adele is going to be the savior of all things musical.
Adele has caught on because she deserves to catch on, because she has the talent for it. Nothing revolutionary here, just the system acting the way it’s supposed to. Her songs are gorgeous, but they aren’t offering anything new. They’re love songs, break up songs, songs about a boy. Pure talent singing well-crafted songs is nothing new. We just said goodbye to a beautiful example of that in Whitney Houston. Strong women singing powerful music is a well-worn (yet classic) story, and hers a refreshing voice in an auto-tuned industry, a reminder of our musical history.
If it isn’t that, then, what makes people think she’s going to be so revolutionary?
Is it because she’s bigger? Is it because she doesn’t have the lithe frame of Rihanna or Gaga? Are we really claiming it’s that revolutionary that a fat girl can sing well and write good music? Come on now.
You know what all those strong, talented female singers have in common? I’ll give you a hint. It has nothing to do with their dress size, and neither did their talent.
People will make arguments that Adele’s calling for a new perspective, for people to look past weight and size and appearance and just listen to the music. I am all for opening that door — while, of course, keeping in mind that as it is an entertainment industry and appearance is always going to play a part. As someone who has been overweight most of her life and who is coming to love her size 12 waist, I’m tickled pink to see someone who is standing with those of us who don’t exactly fit into the traditional size ideal. Adele seems to be advocating for her music over her face and I love her for it.
There is something about the whole situation, though, that leaves a bad taste in my mouth, something that falls shy of revolution. First of all, while she may not be thin by most standards, have you seen her face? She is quite beautiful — and traditionally so. In many ways, she’s contrary to the system’s ideals, but she still fits onto the cover of an album pretty well.
Additionally, and perhaps more troubling to me, there is an off-putting flavor to some of the things she says. Think, for example, about her interview with Anderson Cooper. When asked about body image and whether she ever felt pressure to fit in she said, “I don’t wanna be some skinny Minnie with my tits out; I really don’t want to do it.” I understand the sentiment of her statement: she’s trying to be a singer, not a burlesque performer. I get it.
But do you feel as uncomfortable as I do? Does it make you feel bad for the girls who are skinny? Adele doesn’t seem to be saying that she personally doesn’t care about her own weight; she seems to be condemning those who are skinny and those who chose to dress in a particular way. Maybe I’m reading too far into her words, but I think this is a good example of one of the biggest frustrations when it comes to body acceptance: “Real women have curves.”
Have you heard this before? While on the surface it may seem empowering for ladies like me who have felt demeaned and ignored for our weight, it’s counterproductive and downright mean. What about the beautiful ladies who are a size 00, many because that’s just the way their bodies are built? What about the gorgeous gals who are biggest but don’t have the traditional Marilyn Monroe curves? Are any of them less than women? Obviously Adele hasn’t explicitly said that skinny women aren’t women at all. I’m not insinuating that she has. I’m simply saying that the way she’s speaking reminds us that we need to tread lightly when it comes to body positivity in the media.
So, let me bring it back. Adele is a doll. She’s a stunning human being with pipes for days and a way with words, and yes, she also happens to be fat. She’s a gift to have and hear, but she isn’t a unique and revolutionary icon and she’s probably not going to change the world. She might, however, get us talking about body image and talent and media, and she might even get us crying together. That’s enough for me.
Shelby Mongan is an undergrad student of Catholic Studies and Philosophy at DePaul University, a freelance writer and photographer, and an adopted Chicagoian. She is a staff writer and photographer at Sock Monkey Sound, a music and culture blog based out of Rockford, IL, and has also been featured on HEAVEmedia. She has a tendency towards obsession (which she chalks up to being passionate), speaks nerd fluently, and loves sloths more than she loves most humans. Her day to day life can be found at feelingphiloslothical.tumblr.com.