Talent issue - the pop star: Adele

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Talk about right place, right time. Just when Amy Winehouse takes a leave of absence, along comes Adele Adkins, a singing sensation at just 19 years old and the great white hope of British retro soul. Her voice, full of earthy sensuality and augmented by a 20-a-day habit, is heavily influenced by her idols Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James and Dusty Springfield hence the comparisons to La Winehouse. And the similarities don't end there. Adele is a graduate of the Brit School, the performing arts college that also yielded Winehouse, Katie Melua, Kate Nash and members of The Feeling.

Born in Tottenham and raised in Brixton, Adele has been songwriting and playing guitar since she was 12, when she began performing intimate gigs for friends and family in her bedroom. She was further inspired when Shingai Shoniwa, the iron-lunged singer from The Noisettes, moved in next door and offered to jam with her.

After her pal Jamie T put out her single "Hometown Glory" on his Pacemaker records, Adele was brought to the attention of Richard Russell, head of XL records, home of the White Stripes and Dizzee Rascal, who swiftly signed her up. Now her fans include Jools Holland, on whose show she has already appeared, and Radio 2's Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie, while the NME has described her as "London's new heartbroken soul laureate". Support slots with Jack Penate and Devendra Banhart and a gig at the Electric Proms have raised her profile further. Adele may still be in her teens but her songs suggest a woman of twice her age and experience. At once tough and tender, they tell of infidelity, heartbreak and relationships gone wrong. "Daydreamer", from her forthcoming album 19, finds her cheated on by a bisexual boyfriend, while "Hometown" is a heartfelt paean to the city she grew up in. As for Adele herself, she's as gobby as the Gallaghers, wilful as Winehouse and she likes a drink too. Oh yes, this girl's going places.

Portrait by Dan Burn-Forti