It's about soul, not skin

You won’t see her wearing outrageous costumes or dancing around half-naked on stage like Katy Perry or Lady Gaga.

Unlike so many other young performers Adeledoesn’t have to rely on cheap tricks to be noticed. Blessed with genuine talent and a hauntingly beautiful voice all she has to do is open her mouth and sing.

“I don’t make music for eyes, I make music for ears,” the 22-year-old British soul singer says.

But there’s no overlooking her appearance. Those who want to be kind refer to her size-18 figure as “voluptuous” but others have less flatteringly labelled her “dowdy” and “fat”.

But Adele doesn’t care what people think of her looks – all that matters is the music.

And it seems her fans agree. Since its release her new album, 21, has broken several records, trumping the sales of big name artists such as Justin Bieber as it shot to No 1 in 17 countries.

Her song Rolling in the Deep has been getting plenty of radio play in South Africa. In Britain 21 is the most downloaded album of all time on while in America it became the first CD to sell more than a million copies in 2011.

That smoky voice laced with longing and heartbreak had critics ­taking notice in 2009 when her debut album, 19, won her two Grammys for best newcomer and best female pop performance.

Then Adele almost blew it all by cancelling a much-hyped American music tour at the last minute because of boyfriend trouble.

“I was drinking far too much and that was kind of the basis of our relationship. I couldn’t bear to be without him,” she says.

Since then she has scaled down her drinking, dumped the guy and cleaned up her act. But although she’s grateful that her rash decision didn’t sink her career she refuses to kowtow to music bigwigs and still insists on calling the shots.

“I can’t be a product; no one can do that to me. I have all the say and the power over everything I do.”

This approach and the way she thumbs her nose at preconceived notions of what female singers should look like has led to her being dubbed “the anti-Lady Gaga”. Many music-lovers see her as a welcome relief in an industry inundated with young stars who shamelessly flaunt their bodies to sell bubblegum pop.

Adele Laurie Blue Adkins was born in Tottenham, north London, in 1988. Her father, Mark Evans, was a heavy drinker and left when she was a baby, leaving her mother, Penny – then still a teenager – to raise her single-handedly.

From an early age Adele showed musical talent and got a kick out of doing Spice Girl impersonations to entertain her mom’s friends.

Later she developed a preference for soul, an avenue she was able to explore further when she was invited to study music at the British School for the Performing Arts in Croydon, which counts Amy Winehouse and Leona Lewis among its illustrious alumni.

She reckons if it weren’t for the school she would probably have ended up as one of Britain’s many teenage mothers.

“It’s quite inspiring to be around 700 kids who want to be something rather than 700 kids who just want to get pregnant so they get their own flat [by going on welfare],” she says.

In 2006 as part of her songwriting course she had to cut a demo. A friend posted it on MySpace and it wasn’t long before a record company approached her.

“I thought I’d be offered a job as an intern,” she says. Instead they offered her a record contract.

Read more about the talented Adele in YOU, 12 May 2012.

WIN: Five readers will each win a copy of Adele’s new album, 21. SMS the word ADELE, the answer to the question and your full name and address to 34923 by 5 pm on 19 May. Each SMS costs R1,50. The sponsor is responsible for delivering the prizes within a reasonable time.

Question: How many Grammys has Adele won?