In the last article we took a look at the comparisons between Amy WInehouse and Paloma Faith. Now we will be looking at the the comparisons as well as the friendship between Amy Winehouse and another beloved British soul singer, Adele Laurie Blue Adkins.
Now Adele and Amy Winehouse are probably the two most prominent British artists of the past 30 years.
Their second albums are the two best selling albums of the 21st century in the UK and both managed to enjoy record breaking success abroad, smashing records set by the likes of The Beatles and Madonna.
Both are also soul singers, rely solely on their voice in age of sexualized, flashy pop stars, they also both really rose to fame with their second albums “Back to Black” and “21”, they both often sing about heartache and breakups, both demonstrate an incredible maturity in their lyrics that is decades beyond their years and both even have similar looks too. Dark eyeliner, dark clothes and a large beehive.
Naturally all of these similarities have caused quite a few comparisons to pop up over the years.
Indeed it could be argued that Adele vs Amy is the new Stones vs The Beatles. Two British music phenomenons, one obviously a bit more clean cut than the other one.
In real life Adele and Amy were actually very good friends. I don’t know much about their friendship as very little has been written about it. Neither Amy nor Adele were exactly the type to give interviews. Indeed both could almost be described as secretive. Though there obviously has been a lot of media attention devoted to both of them that is not quite the same thing.
Adele at one point appears to have been very close to Amy as there is a video online of Adele attending Amy Winehouse’s 25th birthday party way back in 2008
This party was only attended by family members and very close friends including both Mark Ronson and Dionne Bromfield, so the fact that Adele was among those in attendance shows that at that point at least her and Amy’s friendship was very close.
The two also had a number of mutual friends such as the singer Lily Allen and obviously Mark Ronson who produced albums for both of them.
According to George Michael, Adele’s relationship with Amy was so close that she refused to sing at an Amy Winehouse tribute concert he had planned because it was too emotional for her.
Adele would pay a number of tributes to her friend nonetheless on her own.
“Not many people have them in it to do something that they love simply because they love it, with no fuss, no compromise, but she knew what she was capable of and didn’t even need to try. If she wanted to do something she would, if she didn’t she’d say fuck off. It came easy to her and that’s why we all loved her so much. We believed every word she wrote and it would sink in deep when she sang them. Amy paved the way for artists like me and made people excited about British music again whilst being fearlessly hilarious and blaze about the whole thing. I don’t she ever realized how brilliant she was and how important she is, but that just makes her more charming. Although I’m incredibly sad over her passing I’m also reminded of immensely proud of her I am as well, and grateful to be inspired by her. Amy flies in Paradise xx.”
Adele’s tribute to Amy Winehouse which she posted on her blog. The title of this tribute “Amy flies in paradise” was a reference to a line from “October Song” on Amy’s debut album. This song was written about Amy’s pet canary who had passed away called Ava. The line was “Ava flies in paradise”.
As you can see Adele and Amy clearly had a very special friendship and its obvious that Adele had a great love for Amy with “Amy flies in Paradise” being one of the most beautiful, touching and moving tributes I have ever seen to anyone. Its a joy for any fan of Amy to read and really sums her up as both a person and an artist better than anything else could. Amy was very lucky to have a friend like Adele and clearly based on how much she thought of her, Adele was lucky to have a friend like Amy too.
The stories of them being class mates are complete fabrication however. The two did attend the Brits School, but Amy was several years older than Adele and apparently the two did not even meet at school. It was only years later after they had both become established singer songwriters that they became close.
Also the stories of Amy Winehouse being resentful of Adele’s success are complete lies. They came from an interview with Mark Ronson who knew both of them and were according to Ronson made up by the interviewer desperate to try and spice things up a bit.
Here was Ronsons angry retraction of the interview
Thus it appears that there was no rivalry at all between Amy and Adele. There really was nothing but love, affection and respect for one another as people and as artists.
Sadly despite their strong friendship the two never recorded a song together. They did once share the stage together, but sadly they did not perform a duet, they came on one after another.
It was at the 2008 Brit Awards where they both performed with Mark Ronson.
However whilst Amy and Adele may have been anything but rivals, a rivalry still exists between their fans to some extent and some of the comparisons between them have been used to belittle the other one from time to time.
Depending on what you read, Adele is either a low rent Amy Winehouse who is only successful because Amy died or Amy Winehouse was an old has been who was eclipsed by Adele.
Its a shame when people have to do down one artist in favor of another, though I must confess I am not above doing that myself.
I think a lot of Amy fans can get a bit annoyed when they see Adele get credit for things that Amy did first. For instance people give Adele credit for not using her looks to sell music whilst obviously Amy never did either. All the things you see people go on about Adele being so fabulous for doing like starring in a video where she doesn’t do any dancing around, its just her singing Amy was doing 5 years earlier.
See for yourself
People praise Adele for doing a video in black and white, Amy did that years before.
People praise Adele for doing a video thats just her sitting in a chair. Amy did that years before.
People praise Adele for doing a stripped down performance of a song at the Brits without any flashy effects or dancers that’s from the heart. Amy did that 3 years earlier!
I must admit even though I am an Adele fan (I have both of her albums) I always got a little bit annoyed at this. As an Amy fan I remember when people used to make vile remarks about Amy’s looks. I’d see them everywhere in the papers, comedians on the television, people on blogs, and magazine’s would always vote her the ugliest woman of the year. It was absolutely vile and the general public lapped it up.
Flash forward a few years and so many people are patting themselves on the back for buying Adele’s album 21 as that proves that they don’t care about women’s looks apparently and I’d see so many articles about how Adele will stop people caring about women’s looks.
Yeah great except what about the woman who came a few years earlier who was a massive success all over the world, broke records and not only didn’t use her looks but had to endure far worse hardship for her appearance than virtually anyone!
What about her!
Of course none of this is Adele’s fault. Indeed far from it Adele has given Amy Winehouse credit for paving the way for her that and other ways since the very beginning of her career. Here is an interview with Adele right at the beginning of her career long before 21 was released where she credits her success to Amy.
So obviously its not Adele’s fault, but you can understand how it might be a bit annoying for Amy fans to have to listen to countless remarks about how she is physically repulsive and then see people pat themselves on the backs for not caring about a woman’s looks simply because they have bought an album by a woman who doesn’t use her looks!
At the same time of course from an Adele fans perspective it understandbly could get a little annoying to see people constantly mention how if it weren’t for Amy then Adele wouldn’t be as successful as she is.
There is no denying that Amy Winehouse paved the way for Adele and was an influence on her. Adele has said it many times.
However ultimately its still a bit much to act as though Adele’s success is entirely down to Amy. Yes Amy inspired her, but Adele’s accomplishments are ultimately her own. Are we going to constantly mention Frank Sinatra every time we want to take about Amy. He was her biggest influence. She even named her debut album after him “Frank”.
I think that when it comes to female singers who didn’t use their looks to sell music in the modern age it should always be Amy that is mentioned as she was the one who endured the most abuse for it. However when it comes to Adele’s other fabulous accomplishments I think it can be very demeaning to Adele to mention Amy Winehouse all the time as though these are only happening because of her rather than because of Adele’s own remarkable talents.
Of course again it would be wrong to blame Amy for this as Amy certainly never acted as though she had paved the way for every female performer who came after. Indeed according to her friend Lily Allen Amy would always laugh whenever people compared a new female performer to her just because they were a woman.
Thus the feud between their fans is really like many feuds between musicians, such as that between the Stones and the Beatles, the creation of the media.
If I were to say who I feel is the better of the two singers then obviously it would be Amy. I have only recently gotten into Adele, and though I very much like what I heard I am too big an Amy fan to really have anybody replace her.
Not that Adele needs to of course I can still be a huge fan of both as many people are.
If I were to look at them objectively then I’d say that Adele is much better at power ballads than Amy is. Both as a singer and as a songwriter Adele is just better suited to big power ballads like “Rolling in the Deep”. She’s probably the best torch singer of the past 20 years in my opinion.
Amy meanwhile I think has a much wider range than Adele. Amy really could cover far more emotions in her voice than Adele. She could make us laugh with songs like “Cherry” and cry with haunting songs like “Wake Up Alone”.
Adele meanwhile I feel her voice is only really suited to large power ballads. Its too big and too emotional for a light breezy song like “Cherry” “Amy, Amy, Amy” or even “Valerie, Amy I think whilst also having a large, powerful voice could bring hers down a bit and make it more quiet and understated. She was ultimately far more versatile a singer than Adele.
Also it goes without saying that Amy Winehouse’s lyrics and voice were a lot darker, and grittier.
You’d never get a song like “You Know I’m No Good” or even “Tears Dry on Their Own” on “21”. Ironically “Tears Dry on Their Own” could be seen as the opposite to many of Adele’s breakup songs as it is about the person having the affair.
Thus in some ways Amy is better and in some Adele is better. It all depends on taste really. I much prefer the more quite understated emotion of say “Love is Losing Game”, but I can understand someone having a preference for the raw power of say “Turning Tables”.
You can see the differences between their voices there. Adele’s is smoother and louder, Amy’s is meanwhile quieter, more understated yet with a bit more grit in it.
Trying to say whose voice is stronger is like trying to say who is better between Aretha Franklin and Billie Holiday. On the one hand Billie’s voice like Amy’s had more of an edge to it, but on the other Aretha’s was better for big power ballads such as “Think” much like Adele.
Really its all just a matter of taste, but I think those comparisons are valid. To an extent Amy could be seen as the modern day Billie Holiday and Adele as the modern Aretha.
Another key difference in Amy and Adele’s music is that Amy I think does have a more vintage, old fashioned feel to her than Adele. Adele definitely sounds more modern. Adele herself even commented on this stating that she feels that she is more contemporary than Amy.
Of course once again this is not a comment on who is better or not, just a key difference between their voices.
As for both ladies place in popular culture.
Well I’d say that Amy is by far and away the more iconic of the two of them. In all fairness its not just because of her music, but everything really. Her appearance is obviously far more distinctive. You’d instantly recognize a cartoon of Amy. or an impression of her of someone dressed up as her for Halloween.
With Adele however what could you do as a caricature of her? Ironically if you were to try and parody Adele and gave someone a beehive and a cockney accent they’d probably think it was Amy instead!
Also Amy’s tragic life has naturally made her enter into popular culture more too. Its morbid but I think people tend to have a fascination with artists who have a more tragic life. Its a cliche but its true people often tend to see artists as sad, misunderstood figures.
Amy’s tragic and untimely death has also made her more iconic too. I am not saying for one second that Amy is only remembered or is only celebrated because she died young.
People always go too far with that and its annoying. Prior to her death Amy sold millions and millions of albums. Like I said she broke records set by the Beatles, she won countless awards (5 grammy’s in a single night then more than any other artist had ever won) and the likes of Adele and Lady Gaga the two biggest artists on the planet (apart from Amy herself) during her lifetime both regularly cited her as their main influence.
Thus to say that Amy was an obscure artist before her passing or would not be celebrated at all had it not been for her death is flat out ignorance.
However obviously it cannot be denied that when any artist dies then they are put on a pedestal to some extent. Again its morbid but the media loves nothing more than a dead hero, particularly a dead young hero like Amy.
Also Amy Winehouse it must be said has been far more influential than Adele. Amy WInehouse paved the way for not only Adele herself, but also for the likes of Lady Gaga, Jessie J etc. Just about every female performer has cited Amy as an influence in some way. Even plenty of male performers too such as Bruno Mars and Sam Smith.
Even though she only passed away less than 5 years ago Amy already feels like one of the greats that’s always been there.
Adele meanwhile whilst not as iconic as Amy I think is more accessible to people than Amy is. Its no doubt due to her clean cut image. Amy Winehouse I think was probably too unconventional for a lot of people with her attitude where as Adele feels a lot more acceptable unconventional. Again its like The Beatles and The Stones. Obviously The Beatles more clean cut image made them more accessible to people than The Rolling Stones rock and roll image.
Due to her accessibility I think you are far more likely to hear Adele songs on the radio or on the tv than Amy songs. I mean people are not gonna be willing to play “Fuck me Pumps” by Amy Winehouse for instance on a tv show during the day, but “Chasing Pavements” by Adele however is obviously gonna be fine to play.
I think its fair to say your average person would probably know more songs by Adele than Amy. Your average person whose not a fan would definitely know songs by both, but I think there are far more Adele songs that are better known than Amy songs.
Adele’s more clean cut image I think also allows her to be seen as a positive role model to young girls too which has obviously only further helped with her popularity. Adele is seen by many as inspirational due to not conforming to the stereotypical image of a female popstar.
Even though the same is true of Amy, again her look with the tattoo’s and the rock and roll attitude would most likely be seen as too unconventional to be inspirational or for her to even get the credit Adele gets.
Thus as you can see both ladies have firmly entered into popular culture in different ways. Both have their similarities sure, but there a number of key differences between their voices and styles.
Ultimately both have made their mark on the music industry and I am no doubt whatsoever that their music will stand the test of time.
Fans can debate forever about who is the superior one, but ultimately I think that in 50 years people will still be crying to tracks from 21 and Back to Black.
The only thing to say really about the relationship between Amy Winehouse and Adele is that its a shame considering their strong friendship that the two never got a chance to record together.
I think their voices would have worked well together because their voices were so different. Sadly however that can never happen, but fans of both singers can at least take solace in the fact that the two not only had a great respect for each other as artists, but had a great love for one another as people too.