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Billboard award No. 3 marks record year for Adele

London singer and songwriter marks her latest success with warm tribute to Amy Winehouse

The British soulstress Adele crowned a remarkable year this weekend as she became the first female singer to win a trio of Billboard awards in a single year.

At the culmination of a hectic period that has seen the earthy Londoner crack America, the US pop bible named the 23-year-old top artist and her record 21 top album and gave her top single for "Rolling in the Deep".

Adele has even attracted a Hollywood following in winning over a notoriously tricky US audience, despite having to cancel some tour dates after surgery to remove a benign polyp in October.

The Tottenham-born singer, full name Adele Adkins, who will add this triumph to three American Music Awards, a Mobo and four MTV prizes, among others, paid tribute to Amy Winehouse as she gave an insight into how she views her music.

"[Amy] created herself. That's what inspired me. I see no appeal in having a very specific plan as an artist," she said. "Who fucking cares if people don't get it or don't like it? I'd rather trust myself, to like what I've done and stick to my guns, than make music I don't like, wear clothes that don't suit me and flutter between genres because I'm scared I won't be relevant if I pass my 'sell by' date. Amy tattooed that in me."

Tye Comer, the editor of Billboard.com, added the full-figured singer was a "breath of fresh air" in a market cluttered with artists such as Rihanna, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga who were cut from a "certain cloth".

He said: "Her success is really inspiring because it shows that there is still room in the music industry for an artist to make it with true, raw talent."

Adele's melancholic tales of love and loss have sold more than 3.4 million copies of 21 in the UK alone and have won acclaim from one of Hollywood's leading ladies.

"Adele's music is so personal that you get invested in her life," the Oscar-winner Julia Roberts told Entertainment Weekly.

The singer said she would be back singing in February – when she is tipped to win some of the six Grammys for which she was nominated last week.