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How Adele Broke The Music Biz By Going Back To The Future

She's so old school she's brand new.

Four things you've never seen Adele do: post a pic from a beach vacation in which she's burning one down, wear a see-through top and 6-inch heels to go grocery shopping, say something kind of rude and snarky about a fellow pop singer or lick anything in public that's not edible.

Why? Because while Adele might be the biggest mainstream "pop" star on the planet, she's carved out a totally unique lane among her fellow singing sisters. You only hear from her when she's got music to share, she doesn't endorse anything and her social media posts are almost as infrequent as her albums.

She's a 27-year-old mum with a partner we almost never see her in the tabloids with and her scandal sheet is so boring that the most outrageous thing that happened during her recent Rolling Stone magazine interview is that she took the interviewer to a super-expensive sushi joint in London and they had a posh private room to themselves.

If all that sounds like a throwback to a kind of 1950s-1960s prim, proper and more private pop siren model, well, that seems like what she's after.

Except her third album, 25, which boasts songs by some of today's most reliable hit writers just had the biggest opening week since Nielsen started tracking point-of-sale purchases in 1991. And the first single, "Hello," smashed download sales records.

So how does someone stay so vintage and be super-relevant and massively popular right now?

Let us count the ways:

  1. That Voice

    Duh.

  2. She Writes Her Own Tweets, Just Like Us

    Adele doesn't post very much, but when she does, it's by her own hand and with her signature sense of humor and honesty. "No one writes my tweets. They just post them for me." Okay, kind of like us.

  3. She Grams About About Often As Your Grams

    Again, she makes it count. Just 29 posts. Total. 2.4 million followers. (For reference: Beyoncé - 1,209 posts)

  4. She Appeared On The Cover Of Rolling Stone Like This

    With just a few major magazine/newspapers interviews so far (The New York Times, I.D.) and a handful of TV and radio appearances, she's not doing the usual full-court media press you'd expect from someone of her stature. Also, she woke up like this for that RS cover. Maybe literally? We can relate. But also, flawless.

  5. Every Radio Station Wants To Ride With Her

    The super-trad "Hello" has gotten airplay at tons of formats (Top 40, Hot AC, AA, alternative, Triple A, rhythmic, urban, urban AC), including some hip-hop stations.

  6. She Does Not Beef
    Christopher Polk/Getty Images Entertainment

    In fact, even when there's a whiff of drama, she quickly shuts it down. Stay classy, A.

  7. That Look?

    So Barbra Streisand 1964. Some things never go out of style.

  8. She Wasn't Sure She'd Even Tour This Time

    In an era when most major artists make their big bucks on the road, with 3-year-old Angelo at home Adele had said she wasn't sure if she's up for another world tour. But over the Thanksgiving break she did reveal that she's hitting the road, but so far no American dates have been announced for 2016.

  9. Her Body Is Hers, Thank You Very Much
    Getty Images

    Not throwing shade at other pop stars who walk the carpet in next-to-nothing, or nothing at all, Adele is comfortable with who she is and doesn't feel the need to change that to meet some pre-conceived standard of what a 2015 pop star should look like.

    As she told RS, "Would I show my body off if I was thinner? Probably not, because my body is mine. But sometimes I'm curious to know if I would have been as successful if I wasn't plus-size. I think I remind everyone of themselves. Not saying everyone is my size, but it's relatable because I'm not perfect, and I think a lot of people are portrayed as perfect, unreachable and untouchable." Exactly.

  10. Fellow Singers Can't Help Themselves

    Back in the 1960s and 70s, you knew you'd made it when everyone had to cover your songs (see Bob Dylan, every Motown artist). Same for Adele. She's living in their world, but when everyone from Demi to Shawn Mendes, DNCE and Conor Maynard have to pay homage to you like your song is a classic, that's boss.

  11. In Fact, She Makes Them Cry With Joy, Not Jealousy

    Sam Smith just screamed like a "little girl."

  12. It's About Selling Music, Not Nail Polish

    From reportedly turning down $19 million from L'oreal to endorse nail polish to passing up opportunities to shill books, clothes, food and drink, cars, toys, apps and candles and even big payday birthday parties, Adele has bucked the celeb trend to endorse anything and everything. Instead she's focused on making us want her music only.

  13. Or Smart Phones

    We're so used to seeing product placement in music videos that the sight of a vintage flip phone in "Hello" was refreshing. Who does that and makes it look cool? Adele does that.

  14. You Guys Can Keep The Streams, She's Good
    Giphy

    While even fellow mega-album mover Taylor Swift has come to peace with putting her music on (some) streaming services, Adele passed on the major ones for now. Why? Who knows, but it clearly had zero impact on her sales.

  15. Her Fandom Doesn't Have A Sell-By Date

    Who else has fans in the same #squad as their mom, aunt, granny and, yes, dad? (And Bette Midler?)