Adele’s Long Awaited Return

“Hello, it’s me,” Adele melodically whispers as she breaks the silence with her first single in three quiet years. After bidding farewell to the world for the hope of a restful hiatus, Adele has come out of the shadows and into the light with a “Hello” that has been anticipated by millions and an album that is sure to be this year’s perfect holiday stocking-stuffer for the music lover on your list.

Along with breaking the silence, Adele has already begun to break records with her debut single from her latest album, 25. “Hello” is topping the charts in the United States, with 1.11 million digital downloads sold in its first week, making it the first song to sell at least 1 million downloads in a single week. The single also climbed its way to number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 List, which is the first chance for the British songstress to grace the top of the coveted chart.

But what took this leading lady from across the pond so long to make her way back into the international limelight that charted her path from age 19? According to the surprisingly private singer, much can happen in a girl’s life between the defining years of 21 and 25. For Adele, these 36 months were some of the most fulfilling, but if you ask her, she probably won’t be quick to mention any of the awards she’s received—not even her Oscar for the film single, “Skyfall.” No, Adele found something in her sabbatical that was more thrilling than red carpet success and paparazzi intrigue. During the past three years, Adele put down the microphone to take a big, deep breath of life.

Adele, smoking her very last Marlboro Light before giving up, wears a vintage black dress from One of A Kind and a ring by Dalila Barkache from Dover Street Market. | Portrait by Alasdair McLellan | Styling by Jonathan Kaye | Hair and make-up: Michael Ashton using Chanel | Manicure: Mike Pocock | Photographic assistance: Gareth Powell, Simon Bremner, Baud Postma | Styling assistance: Raquel Franco | Production: Chloe Charlesworth at Art Partner

After her 21 album that defied expectations for a not-quite-mainstream-project won nearly every possible award, critics and fans alike were anxious for the singer to get back to recording sessions for a sensational round three of studio albums. Although this may have seemed like the most strategic move for the Grammy winner, in retrospect, this may have been a nearly impossible feat, due to the legendary status 21 achieved in a single year. With “Rolling in the Deep” gaining the titles of both Record of the Year and Song of the Year, Adele needed new material to craft another masterpiece to follow the shockwave of 21—and this new material needed plenty of room to breathe.

On October 19, 2012, Adele welcomed her first child, a baby boy named Angelo, who, although already the owner of a reputation of privacy much like his famous mother, has been identified as the singer’s main reasoning behind her hiding. Angelo’s father, Simon Konecki, also inspired Adele’s hiatus as well as songs from her 25 album. One of the tracks, “Water Under the Bridge,” is unashamedly a love song for the self-expressive, as Adele shares the weight of wonder that accompanies an unknowingly maturing heart as it realizes the seriousness of love.

Songs like this are proof that Adele’s comeback—a term that we’ll be hearing quite a bit of this coming year when it comes to the “Hello” singer—has been well worth the wait. Adele knows as well as her fans that millions of listeners have been waiting for this year’s “Somebody Like You” to give them a good cry or the next “Rolling in the Deep” to belt out in the car, but Adele’s years of respite taught us all a very inescapable truth of music: for more songs to be written, life must be lived in between.

Adele definitely excelled in the art of living before the production of 25, but she might disagree with anyone who calls the past three years her chance to “take a break” and live her life. Unlike most singers, Adele views her career as a hobby, something she does on the side of a very fulfilling life. She herself has stated that she would prefer to release her albums, live quietly in public for a few years at a time, then return to the solace of her life behind the scenes.

For now, Adele is a mother first and an artist second, and motherhood looks lovely on the always fashionable star—who would probably object to the use of the stylish adjective. Adele, who is quite comfortable in converse and oversized sweaters, has enjoyed trading arenas and music halls for supermarkets and community parks. Although she may not look the part of a dolled-up Grammy winner every day, Adele has chosen to bask in the glow of her raw appeal, the trait that made the teenage girl from Tottenham as real and relatable as her Cockney accent.

That accent that we’ve all come to love is just a hint of that private existence that shapes Adele into the classic songwriter of our time. So let’s hope that she enjoys a break now and then, writes a few more songs, and gets that accent even stronger.