As you probably already know, Adele called out a fan who was filming her concert recently, and the Internet rejoiced.
"I’m here in real life," she says in another recording (#irony). "You can enjoy it in real life. Could you take your tripod down? This isn’t a DVD. This is a real show. I’d really like you to enjoy my show, because lots of people outside there couldn’t come in."
She had a point. Not only was the ridiculousness of the tripod (#WTF) likely distracting for her and everybody nearby, but we also know that the best view of a concert is generally IRL with our human eyes. This has been a point of contention in music ever since the day our phones started doing more than sending texts in eight parts via T9. In a piece last year, writer Nick Fulton cited artists from Jarvis Cocker to Questlove to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs who’d had it with Instagram and DIY videos, with Savages’s Jehnny Beth calling cameras "uncivilised." In 2013, She & Him also banned cameras from their live gigs, and this month, Prophets of Rage asked that all phones be checked in prior to their first-ever performance. Why do some of these requests evoke an eye roll, while Adele's proclamation drew hallelujah hands all around?
Because that's exactly what we not-so-secretly want from her: to stop being polite and start getting real.
We — members of the human race — are getting sick of too-cool attitudes. We champion artists who Tell It Like It Is. We subscribe to vulnerability and the idea that the famouses we love are also the type who’d grab a drink with us after their show and talk shit about whoever we hated. We applaud when Adele curses, cry when Beyoncé emotes, and rejoice whenever Rihanna tweets. We want artists who say what we’re thinking — even if we didn't necessarily realize we were thinking it. OMG, she's right, this tripod is SO RUDE! How could we have missed this before? Thank you, Adele!
When Adele dressed down that amateur director, it was an assertion of the kind of power we crave from celebrities in 2016. She refused to compromise her own experience for anybody else’s, and she sent the message that she will call it as she sees it, with no fear of backlash. All we want is to be that free.
This doesn’t work for just anybody. When She & Him threw the No Camera™ rule into the mix during a 2013 Fort York concert in Toronto, they were greeted with snarky tweets in the vein of, "Looks like we have a badass over here." (Take it from me, that's a pretty ruthless thing for a Canadian pop fan to say.) When The Eagles banned phones entirely in 2015, The Guardian was forced to publish an irate op-ed with a URL referencing the tragic tale of Icarus. No one wanted to hear those artists' complaints, valid though they might have been. But when the late, great Prince warned that phone-holders risked getting kicked out of his shows earlier this year, we nodded in approval and pleaded for more. That's because Prince was Prince.
She & Him are never going to be Prince, which is sad on a number of levels. They're probably never going to be Adele, either. Few people can be. The short list of other artists we'd allow to dictate the terms of our handheld engagement with their music probably begins and ends with Beyoncé, Rihanna, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj, and Taylor Swift. And that's OK. If everyone was as honest as Adele, she wouldn't be half as special.