It’s been almost five years since Adele Adkins released new music. Her last album, 25, delivered emotional, vocally masterful, classicist pop just in time to soothe listeners during taxing election seasons in the U.S. and U.K. An excellent Saturday Night Live sketch back then even posited that her hit “Hello” could be the one thing to bring together feuding family members at Thanksgiving dinners. Continuing Adele’s streak of blazing commercial success, 25 ended up being the best-selling album in the world that year.
With campaign stress—and the melancholic chill of sweater weather—in the air again, now would seem an ideal time for listeners to be comforted by her voice once more. Earlier this year, Adele told congregants at a wedding that 25’s follow-up would arrive in September, but that month came and went without any new music from her. There was, however, one tantalizing bit of news: Adele was booked to play last night’s SNL. Today, her status as the queen of heartbreak remains intact; the role she played was not musical guest but teasing, affable, yet ultimately unmemorable host.
“My album’s not finished,” she said early in her monologue, after raising the question of why she wasn’t going to play music in addition to hosting. “I’m also too scared to do both. I’d rather just put on some wigs … have a glass of wine or six, and just see what happens.” Fair enough, but then why bother to show up at all? The answer isn’t hard to guess. Hosting SNL is a chance for Adele to make like some other pop titans of our era and keep her celebrity status intact without rushing the risky, taxing project of trying to match her past musical success. After all, in the social-media era, an entertainer’s personality can be their product.
Luckily for everyone, Adele’s personality is a delight. Although her music consists of solemn storytelling about the perils of romance, her affect in interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, and even royal ceremonies over the years has been loose and jokey. The phrase loves to laugh is a cliché, but it really does seem to define Adele as a human being.