Someone like Adele

I’m occasionally known for expressing unpopular opinions on the internet.  Here’s another:  I don’t really like Adele.  I tried, I really did.  I like her songs and her style, and she seems like a pretty good person.  But I don’t like her voice, which given that she’s a singer, is probably the most important piece.  Yet, just about every song I hear on the radio that I don’t already know, sounds like her to me, so I suspect much of this is an aspect of my bionic hearing that my brain hasn’t figured out yet.

Since my hearing loss in 2001, I haven’t really ventured outside of my comfort zone in terms of what kinds of things I listen to. Learning new songs from voices I know was hard enough. Learning new voices was that much harder. Even right now, I’m listening to the 80s station on iHeartRadio because I know I’ll know every song that’s played. So when I got my implant, I had a list of artists who became popular since 2001 that I thought I might like, given what I’d heard about them. Adele was on that list.

So about a year or so ago, I pulled up her first popular album on Amazon Music (grateful for Prime Music!). I started listening to this song “Someone Like You”, which I gather was her first big hit and people always talk about how they love to belt it out along with her. Should be right up my alley. I liked it, for the most part. So I listened to the rest of the album. It’s a great album, and exactly the kind of stuff I’ve always seen myself writing/recording should I ever go that route. So I listened to more of her. She definitely has a unique sounding voice, fairly easy to distinguish from others.

I’ve made a shift in the last couple of months – in the car I used to only listen to the radio during 80s weekends. Now I listen to the soft rock station all the time when I’m not going far. Partially because it’s so fun to be able to at all, and partially because I want to hear more of the things I’ve been missing out on all these years.

This is where the weirdness comes in. I have an old enough car that it doesn’t show me the songs that are playing on a given station on the screen, unless I purposely hit something like 10 buttons to seek it out. So I try to guess who the artist is based on my limited knowledge of recent pop music. Probably 75% of the time, my brain says “it sounds like Adele!”. I didn’t listen to enough of her to actually recognize any of her songs, just her voice. So Bruno Mars is playing and I was SURE it was her. I click my 10 buttons to see the name of her song. Burno Mars? WTF? No way! Alicia Keys? No, surely “Girl on Fire” is by Adele, right? I’m able to distinguish some other people – Taylor Swift, Norah Jones, Sara Barielles (whose stuff I’m currently obsessed with), Katy Perry – and of course voices/songs I already know. One time when I thought something was Adele, it actually was, so that was rewarding to finally see her name.

The uniqueness of her voice is problematic. She is technically a horrible singer and I’m really surprised she has any voice left at all (oh, right. She really doesn’t.).  I hear so many issues with her voice, which is why I think I say I don’t like it.  I can’t get over the technical issues – some singers who have similar issues still can manage to have pretty sounding voices to me.  Unfortunately, she is just grating to me.

So WHY does everyone on the car radio sound like her?  It’s quite literally only in the car that this Adele phenomenon happens to me.  I believe there is a combination of things going on:  1.  Road noise  2. Fan/AC noise  3.Radio signal quality.  With my implant, I have what is called a “t-mic”, this is a little microphone that hangs in front of my ear canal to provide sound from the same place natural sound would come in to an ear – it’s really quite brilliant.  My only complaint from it is the sound of wind/air moving across it.  We’ve all heard wind in a microphone, right?  Same sort of idea.

I think what’s happening is that the car fan and road noise are causing enough of that airflow sound that it’s distorting what I’m hearing from the radio.  My brain then isn’t sure what to do with that sound so it pulls that grating sound of Adele’s voice out and says “okay, this is Adele.” It doesn’t happen with things I know because it’s just slight enough that the auditory memory is winning out over the airflow sound.

Trying to remember to switch to my program that doesn’t use the t-mic for upcoming car trips and see if that makes things any better.  The problem, of course, is now that I’ve recognized this phenomenon, it’s much easier for my brain to say “No, that’s not Adele”.  I mean, not really a problem, since I really don’t want to hear her anyway.

2 thoughts on “Someone like Adele

  1. This is really interesting, Ali. Have you tried listening to Adele and the other artists you mistake for Adele in a different way like a headset or something for comparison to the in-car effect? I’d be curious to know if the quality changes much in your opinion with say noise-canceling headphones.

    • Hi Susan! Thanks for your comment. I do 90% of my listening of music via Bluetooth streaming directly to my hearing devices, which turns off almost all background noise. It’s really wonderful – the equivalent of noise cancelling headphones. So when I first listened to Adele, I did it that way. I did give it quite some time, listened to at least two of her albums multiple times and even learned a couple of her popular songs to sing at karaoke in the future. I just don’t like her voice.

      The other artists I’ve mistaken for her are a different story – they are not people that I’ve ever heard before for the most part, and not on my list of people I am trying to learn. So I really do only hear them in the car on the radio. But I heard “Girl on Fire” again the other day, and this time since I’d heard it before and my brain knew it wasn’t Adele, it didn’t sound like her at all. It’s crazy how much the brain functions in hearing.

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