As the British superstar debuts her new album Nov. 19, it’s time to consider how her ballads have become the perfect soundtrack for glory and heartbreak in sports.
In 2008, Adele burst onto the music scene with the debut of her first studio album, 19. And with it, the sweet songstress from Tottenham launched a storied career through which she has become one of the great voices of her generation.
Best known for her ballads that inspire even the most tone-deaf among us to test the limits of our vocal range in the shower or in the car, the decorated Brit has become an entertainment nomad, leaving her mark on various spaces within popular culture with the greatest of ease — and often a bit of her signature cheekiness. And then, she typically fades to black; she’s never gone less than three years between albums, and her most recent came in 2015.
But on Friday, Adele re-emerges on her own terms with 30, her fourth studio record.
Preparing for her next sonic chapter, the famously private singer has begun to leave breadcrumbs of content for her fans in the lead-up to the release. From the album’s lead single “Easy on Me” to the occasional public appearance with her new beau, agent Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, to a sit-down interview with Oprah and a star-studded private show at LA’s iconic Griffith Observatory, Adele has everyone ready to press play.
And that’s got us thinking about just how much the emotional highs of the thrill of victory and the lower-than-low feeling of the agony of defeat are captured (and heightened) by her music — and how much it’s all been leveraged by mass media to ratchet up the intensity of some of the biggest moments in sports.
She may have gone a half-dozen years without a studio record, but Adele’s music and general impact on the cultural zeitgeist never left; it basically can’t.
In fact, the sports world may be the one in which Adele’s lasting impact has been most consistent and logical.
From her personal allegiances — don’t speak ill of her beloved Spurs or show up at her shows wearing an Arsenal jersey — to the use of her songs as a soundtrack to victory and defeat alike, the convergence of Adele, sports, and sports media was basically inevitable.
Soccer, Spurs, and Glory
Since the start of her career, Adele has made no secret of her love for soccer. She has repeatedly shown that she understands the mania of fandom. Back in 2016, she showed the France/Romania Euro Cup match as the backdrop of her Paris show.
In July, she made a rare personal post on her Instagram in which she sported a national kit and commended England’s 2020 Euro Cup performance following their heartbreaking loss to Italy in the finals.
“You did us so proud! You brought our game home and brought us all together,” the singer said, lauding the national squad.
But closest to her heart? Her hometown Tottenham Hotspur FC In her recent appearance on Vogue’s “73 Questions” video series, she did her best rendition of one of their signature songs, “Glory, Glory Tottenham Hotspur.” And it’s possible that the team fuels more heartache than happiness, which, as a cheeky YouTube commenter noted, “explains why all of her songs are so heartbreaking.”
However, the love affair between Adele and soccer is a bidirectional one. Earlier this year, sixth-tier English club Chorley FC made an unlikely run at the FA Cup and gained international headlines for their postgame lockerroom performance of the smash hit “Someone Like You.” The clip even gained the attention of the usually mum singer on Twitter.
The NFL Says “Hello”
Tottenham played host to yet another series of football games in 2021. The NFL International Series resumed with two games at the legendary stadium and in advance, NFL UK tested players’ knowledge of some of England’s greatest musical acts. The 49ers’ B.W. Webb does a particularly stunning rendition of the hook of “Rolling in the Deep.”
Perhaps the league’s best use of Adele was as the dramatic soundtrack to the much-anticipated reunion between Tampa Bay Buccaneer Tom Brady and his former team, the New England Patriots, at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.
The NBC Sunday Night Football matchup kicked off with a melodramatic edit of some of TB12’s best moments set to the tune of the 2015 smash, “Hello.”
In the past, rumors swirled that Adele would take the stage at the Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show. In August 2016, the singer told the crowd at one of her LA shows that she had been offered the gig, but “that show is not about music. And I don’t really — I can’t dance or anything like that.” Pepsi and the NFL later disputed the claims in an official statement, and Lady Gaga took the stage several months later in Houston.
The NFL wasn’t the first to use the breakup ballad to promote new chapters. Back in 2015, the NBA on TNT also utilized the song to tease the first game between the Golden State Warriors and the Oklahoma City Thunder following Kevin Durant’s departure for the Bay Area. The edit shows various clips of Durant and former teammate Russell Westbrook, punctuated with the staccato of “Hello from the other side.”
But for Adele herself, basketball recently became the sport to which she has the most personal connection. In July, she stunned fans when she attended Game 5 of the NBA Finals with Paul, the founder of Klutch Sports Group and longtime friend and business partner to LeBron James. Paul and Klutch represent some of the league’s biggest stars, including Anthony Davis, Draymond Green, John Wall, Lonzo Ball, Ben Simmons, and King James himself.
Although they did not confirm their relationship for many months, the singer later made waves when she sat courtside with Paul at the Lakers’ home opener in a stunning Louis Vuitton drip.
Since they’ve been together, the worlds of basketball and Adele have intertwined with increasing frequency. She was captured twerking on the dance floor at Anthony Davis’s wedding in September. Future Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade was spotted amongst the star-studded crowd — which also included Drake, Leonardo Dicaprio, Tracee Ellis Ross, and many, many more — at her One Night with Adele performance that premiered on CBS earlier this month, drawing nine million viewers.
That’s a pretty sweet figure when you’re competing against Sunday Night Football for ratings.
With a new album now available, the opportunities for continued crossovers across sports and sports media only stand to grow. It’s pretty much immutable: Songs animated by glory, heartbreak, vulnerability, self-reflection, and grace have a permanent role in striking a chord with the passion of sports fans across the globe.