It’s been almost two weeks since Adele announced that her Vegas residency would not be starting on schedule just one day before she was set to kick it off. Since then, practically every day, there have reports in both the American and British media about what led to the cancellation, from COVID setbacks to staging issues to design disputes, and speculation that the residency might be completely scrapped altogether.
Over the last few days, though, the focus on the situation has moved to her relationship with Rich Paul. The latest rumours are all about the alleged drama between them, something something about how she was always crying on the phone with him, and that romantic turmoil played a major factor in why her Vegas performances weren’t happening. This is gross.
Is it disappointing that Adele and her team couldn’t get it together? Of course. Waiting until basically the last possible moment, when fans had already arrived in Vegas after having spent a lot of money is the opposite of Show Your Work. Adele is a mega popstar, one of the biggest. and there aren’t that many at her level – and artists at that level are held to a certain standard of excellence; Adele herself has established that level of excellence. Look at her two television specials that preceded the release of 30 last fall, one in the US and one in the UK. High production values for both broadcasts, backed by all the resources of her record label, fitting for a global superstar making her long-awaited comeback.
The Vegas debacle, then, is not a good look, and she should wear it, no doubt. She should wear it on the basis of work, on the basis of professionalism or a lack thereof, and a failure to deliver – those should be the measurements of criticism: that she and her team were poorly organised, lacked strategy, fell short on effective communication and preparation. In my opinion, all of that is fair play. Adele is an artist who’s running her own business, and this was bad business. But to suggest that she couldn’t focus on her business because she was preoccupied with her love life makes it not about her abilities as an artist and a businessperson but about how she’s a woman who can’t do business and romance at the same time. And of course on top of that, since her romance happens to be with a Black man, I can’t help but hear the dog whistling.
Now, after all this endless rumouring, Adele has answered.
Her confirmation that she will be performing at the Brits next week is a direct contradiction to reports in the UK tabloids that she’d pulled out. Holding a playing card might be a hint that her Vegas residency might happen again at some point. Going on Graham Norton’s show means that she’ll probably address the mess and all the ensuing controversy and put her side of the story out there on British television. All of this is good crisis management. Because at some point she is going to have to sort this out.
But I wish she hadn’t added the “Oh, and Rich sends his love” part at the end. Because, as I’ve just written, this is about the work. The work with this residency clearly hasn’t been good and she’s now working to fix it. But if the work has nothing to do with the love, and it doesn’t and shouldn’t, then leave the love out of it. So I hope that if she’s asked about this on Graham Norton, that will be her answer. That while she may not be able to push back on the fact that she and her team didn’t do a good job, she can push back on the fact that they’re insinuating that she can’t do her job and have a personal life at the same time.