I’m sure by now you’ve all heard about Adele’s big moment at the Grammys last weekend. No, not when she won Song of the Year. Or Record of the Year. Or Album of the Year (SLAY, ADELE). I’m talking about when she chose to stop her tribute to George Michael mid-song and start it over. If you haven’t seen the clip, check it out here (also you should go listen to the song, because she kills it).
This was a huge decision for Adele to make. I mean, stopping a live performance any time can be taboo, but stopping during the Grammys is on a whole other level. As a musician, I can easily imagine Adele’s thought process at that time—mostly because I’ve been there before. Okay, not at the Grammys, but still. As one of the leaders of my incredible a cappella group (which you should check out here!), I’ve been in situations where we’re performing one of our songs and all of a sudden I realize—oh God, please no—it’s not sounding like it’s supposed to. At all. At this point, I normally plaster a giant everything-is-okay-everything-is-alright smile on face and try to figure out if it’s salvageable or if we’re going to need to stop. I can only guess that Adele’s inner dialogue might have been similar during her performance… except maybe with a few more curse words involved. Needless to say, it’s a hard choice to make, and to make it at the Grammys is a brave one. By stopping and starting over, Adele made a bold statement. In a room full of larger than life celebrities, with her friends and all of America watching, on a night that is supposed to be the biggest night in music, Adele said, “I’m human, I’m not perfect, and even the best of the best mess up sometimes.” Okay, actually she said, “I know it’s live TV, I’m sorry… I can’t do it again like last year. I’m sorry for swearing and I’m sorry for starting again” but same difference.
As I was trying to figure out what to write about this week, my thoughts kept coming back to this moment. I think there’s a lot to be learned from it. First of all, it’s okay to make mistakes. If Adele can mess up a highly anticipated tribute during the Grammys in front of millions of people, I can accidentally leave an important piece of paperwork in the copier at work, instead of filing it back where it needs to go. Humans, all humans, make mistakes.
Next, Adele showed us that it’s okay to be emotional. This week, I was having a conversation with some friends about how we all tend to bottle up our negative emotions and everything is fine, everything is good, everything is okay, and then all of a sudden the littlest thing tips us over the edge and we’re all giant balls of emotion that has been building up for weeks and we’re lost to our feelings. I think one of the reasons my friends and I, as well as so many other people, do this to ourselves is that we are conditioned to hide most of our emotions behind walls—perhaps because we have been taught by the media and celebrities (like all of those at the Grammys) to constantly strive for perfection. Those walls might only come down when we’re alone, in a safe space, or maybe not at all—at least until something tips us over the edge. But Adele doesn’t maintain the super cool, almost cold, calm and professional demeanor that one might expect from a celebrity. Instead, she lets out a curse and tearfully apologizes to the crowd and everyone watching at home. She doesn’t hide her feelings but rather shares them with her audience, creating a touching moment. And what she does next is equally important. She then pulls herself together and delivers a stunning performance. If you didn’t know what had just happened, you never would have guessed that she had been close to tears just moments before she sang “Fast Love.” Adele shows us the importance of having the ability to pick yourself right back up again if you stumble.
Finally, I think there’s a sort of lesson to be found in stopping. This world is crazy, possibly now more so than ever. We are constantly going, constantly moving, and, if you’re anything like me, your brain is always thinking five steps ahead of your hands about what needs to be done next. This week was wildly busy for me. I was full-throttle all week, running between class, meetings, and work. When I have a week like this, I’m not always the best version of myself, and I think the same can be true for a lot of people. When you have a million things to do and not enough time to do them, don’t you become at times a little brusque or absentminded, and even put off basic needs, like eating or sleeping, until a later time? You might get a little “off key” from your normal self. This week, when I had the feeling that things might not be quite right (oh God, please no), instead of plastering that smile on my face, I reminded myself to stop—just like Adele did—and reorient myself to be kinder (to others and to myself), more efficient, and more focused on the task at hand. It was a challenge for me; I definitely didn’t succeed all of the time. But I’m going to keep working on it, thanks to Adele.
In the end, Adele made one of the hardest choices an artist can make and got a lot of flak from both the media and people watching (Twitter can be harsh) for stopping her song and starting over. But I think she made an important choice, one that she can stand by and one that might have been able to teach us all a little something. I, for one, only love Adele more after she stopped her performance. She showed us that she’s human, something that celebrities rarely do, and that even on the world’s biggest stage, it’s okay to just stop.