Everyone loves Adele. That's one of the largest takeaways from last year's Grammy ceremony, of which Adele's grand comeback performance was one of the few highlights.
And more than that, everyone loves Adele enough to buy her records en masse, something the record industry might love even more. As you read this, literally hundreds of artists, A&R people and execs are scouring the world for someone brassy enough and with enough instrumental chops to be crowned the next Adele--the same scouring that went on circa 19, when Adele was one of dozens of other soul-pop singers positioned as the next Amy Winehouse.
If we knew who The Next Adele was, we wouldn't be music critics but wildly successful music-industry execs. That's not really our goal here. None of the five artists below are exact Adele clones--which aren't necessary, anyway; we've got a perfectly great Adele already. Nevertheless, they've all got not only direct connections to Adele but either stylistic debts or similarities. Some are new, some are newish (the same way Adele was after 19), and one of them might become your new favorite.
Where She's From: Hampshire, U.K.
What She's Like: The precise, inevitable result of a talented 15-year-old girl being discovered by covering Bon Iver's "Skinny Love" on piano in the Age of Adele. Acoustic instrument plus savvy choice of covers (she's also covered the xx's "Shelter," a choice that's worked quite well for Drake, Rihanna and others) plus sudden A&R niche = primo placement for future stardom.
Adele Connection: She's young enough that Adele's an inspiration to her, and she plays the piano well enough in the right year that everyone's hailing her as The Next (Teenaged) Adele. She's quite fond of a solo piano number.
Album Out? Birdy, released last year.
Where She's From: Dublin, Ireland.
What She's Like: A singer, songwriter, pianist and revivalist of the sunnier portions of classic soul; she's had some success on the States' R&B charts in the past. Other readers might know her from One Tree Hill, where she plays Erin Macree.
Adele Connection: She opened for Adele in 2008; single "Shine" could be likened to "Someone Like You" (well, probably not lyrically) without being too far off.
Album Out? Let The Truth Be Told came out in 2009, but she's releasing a new one, Love, Learn, Live this year.
LIANNE LA HAVAS
Where She's From: London.
What She's Like: The spikiest artist on this list so far, she's just as apt to be compared to the likes of Tune-Yards, Janelle Monae, Kimbra or alt-rockers (some names that've come up: Gang of Four, Sonic Youth) as Adele. But the comparison fits nevertheless; she got her start doing backing vocals for the likes of Paloma Faith (a former Next Adele, before Adele was Adele; record-industry jockeying is complicated sometimes) and has co-signs from the same sorts of supporters, like Bon Iver.
Adele Connection: She made the BBC's Sound of 2012 finalists, an award Adele won in 2008. (XL Recordings also picked up a piece about her, for the thirteen people who get their Adele news straight from the label these days.)
Album Out? She released an EP, Lost & Found, last year, and her full-length debut's due soon.
Where She's From: The U.K.
What She's Like: Take Adele's vocal force (with a little more Ciccone tone) and place it into a glossier, shimmier context; any given Clare single's as much a showcase for her gale-force voice as the powerhouse dynamics behind it.
Adele Connection: Another BBC favorite, she was on 2011's shortlist; producer Fraser T. Smith has worked with Adele in the past (specifically, "Set Fire to the Rain," which of all her singles sounds most like something Clare might do.)
Album Out? Light After Dark came out last year; she's working on a follow-up.
Where She's From: Scotland.
What She's Like: This is highly reductive, but imagine a cross between Katy B and Adele. Like the former, she has roots and influences from the U.K. electronic scene (see "Heaven," her best single by far), but she belts much more like the latter. She's also gotten a co-sign from Alicia Keys, who guested on her debut.
Adele Connection: Her first name's Adele! (And she changed it because of the one-named one..)
Album Out? Our Version of Events just came out today in the U.K.