The moment Adele took Madonna’s record was the moment it appeared female artists no longer have to be sexualised to be successful. To an extent, of course, Adele is manufactured, as is the case with almost every successful pop star. But her success is principally built around her talent and her amazing voice. Her songs really resonate with people and it’s so refreshing that we’re more interested in her music than what she looks like, what she’s wearing or who she’s shagging. Most pop stars look like they’ve been created using a “sex symbol” iPhone app, but Adele is different. Most female pop stars look exactly the same. I can’t tell one Saturday from the next.
Unfortunately, Adele is the exception and not yet the rule. My gym has MTV’s “Debase Yourself” or something on a loop and it’s a reminder that sex still sells - the images in those videos! They’re kind of extreme, with lots of nearly-naked women writhing around. Unsurprisingly, Adele’s videos never seem to make it on to that channel.
Adele has managed to resist this trend of pushing the sexualisation of pop stars further and further. I remember when “I Want Your Sex” by George Michael came out in 1987 and people were freaking out over the lyrics to the point where, when it got to No.01 Bruno Brooks introduced it as “I Want....” and they wouldn’t play the video. He was only talking about wanting to have sex, which seems lame compared to what we have nowadays.
On the whole, male performers aren’t sexualised in the same way as women. They tend to be branded as soppy romantics and perfect boyfriends - soft lighting, floppy fringe, vulnerable lip quiver - because their largely female audience is more likely to respond to romantic rather than sexual images. Look at boy band The Wanted. Girls would want to go out with them but wouldn’t necessarily want to sleep with them, whereas when men talk about Rihanna they don’t discuss whether she’d be good wife material. Adele is an overdue relief from the endless fantasy shag parade.
While I’m delighted by her achievements, I find it really disappointing that we’re talking about her breaking a record for a female solo artist – as Adele said, female is a gender not a genre. Why do we still have to measure female artists against male artists? People do the same thing with female comedians; I don’t use the word ‘comediennes’. Why can’t a female comic just be somebody’s favourite comedian rather than somebody favourite female comedian? It’s like saying you’re my favourite disabled comic or you’re my favourite black comic - why separate people like that?
Adele can be a positive influence and an inspiration for women who don’t fit in with the industry’s idea of what a female pop star should look like. Maybe one day the mood will change and she’ll become a Lady Gaga character dry-humping the stage with flames coming out of her bikini, but I can’t see it. The only change I can foresee is her cheering up a bit. (All those songs about heartbreak). She’s got the world at her feet, a hubbie, a bubbie, I bet the last thing on her mind is push up bras and monokinis!