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Big Voice, Good. Big Body? Not So Much

I can’t stop listening to Adele’s new album, “21.” It’s so good I almost forgive her for being so ridiculously talented when she’s practically not even out of diapers.

I listen to it when I’m cleaning the house and sing along, belting out the lyrics with terrific emotion (and absolutely no sense of tune. Pretty much I couldn’t carry a tune if you put it in a basket for me. One of my great life sorrows. Unfortunately for those around me–including my musically gifted husband–I love to sing).

The last few times I went to the gym, I got so caught up in the Muscle Shoals rhythms of Adele’s album that I actually got on a treadmill and began to run.  That’s how good she is: I hate to run but it was either pretend to sprint on the treadmill or start boogieing around the cardio room at the gym–and that would be even more embarrassing than seeing myself huff and puff on the treadhell.

The album has hit the pop charts; the first singles off the album are doing really well – and a few weeks ago, Adele got the ultimate pop music imprimatur: her song “Turning Tables” was covered on Glee.  One of the reasons I like Glee has to do with its general message of inclusiveness–gays, straights, fats, thins, browns, pinks–everyone comes together in Glee-land.  One of the ongoing plot lines this season, in fact, has had bad-boy sexy-pants Puckerman fall hard for the plus-sized, glasses-wearing Lauren, who is about the same size as Adele, actually. And therein we have the problem.

Adele’s a “big girl,” as they say. Not Mama Cass huge but not Katy Perry va-va-voom, either. If you look around the web, you can see image after image of Adele’s amazingly expressive face–huge eyes, voluptuous mouth, tumultuous hair–but to find a full-body shot, you have to dig a little bit. Did some publicist somewhere, some record-making maven, decide that Adele’s body needs to be kept under wraps? Literally–in photo after photo, she’s swathed in blankets, cloaks, capes. Maybe full-body shots were deemed off-limits so as to prevent the kind of comparison that happened in 2009, when Annie Leibovitz photoshopped Adele so profoundly that the singer looks like one of Jillian Michaels’ fembots.

Everywhere, it’s head shot after head shot after head shot. Even in the video for the album’s first single, “Rolling in the Deep,” we don’t see Adele’s body. She sits in chair –perhaps trapped by the weight of the truly hideous bouffant hairdo someone made her wear–for the entire video. She doesn’t move, except for the occasional hand gesture:

Are we yet again telling women that the body–the package–matters more than what’s inside the body?

Maybe not. I’m sure it was just a coincidence that when Adele’s song was covered in Glee, it was sung by Miss Skinny Britches herself, Gwyneth Paltrow. In an one-shouldered black dress on a stage with full orchestra, with the camera giving us repeated shots of her personally trained macrobiotic body. Who knows. Maybe Gwynnie though Adele’s fabulous ballad about love and vengeance was about turning the tables on meat and the restorative power of flaxseed (soy)milkshakes?  She’s certainly trying, is our Gwynnie, as you can see from this image: what she lacks for in vocal chops, she’s attempting to make up for in EMOTING.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see Adele in a lovely off-the-shoulder gown? Or tongue-wrangling with Mr Shuester? And while I’m not usually a fan of the whole sex-symbol thing, here’s my own table-turning experience: wouldn’t it be nice to let the fat girl be a sex symbol?

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4 Responses to Big Voice, Good. Big Body? Not So Much

  1. Stasha May 3, 2011 at 3:57 am #

    Yes, yes and yes.

  2. Cathy Epervary May 3, 2011 at 2:39 pm #

    Loved her since Adele 19 – so talented and beautiful!

  3. Alexandra June 6, 2011 at 12:00 am #

    She is hot and sexy. All those curves.

    I love them. And it seems like she does, too…doesn’t it?

    I’d love to see her show all her ripeness off.

  4. Laura February 12, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

    Adele’s 19 was strong. 21 is simply timeless. In the past two years, Adele has refined and reinvented her unique sound that always puts her aching yet powerful vocals and lyrics at the forefront. These are songs that could have been released in the 60s as easily as 30 years from now. Adele has injected her trademark piano ballads with the best from several different musical genres including Americana roots and country, r&b, blues and gospel. The music is exciting and simply is. It lives, breathes. I played a couple songs for my mom, who at forty years older than I, generally criticizes my music taste, and the first thing she said was “Wow, this girl really knows how to write a story–those songs are beautiful.”

    Laura @

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