The music industry was left struggling to contemplate life without its biggest star yesterday after Adele, hailed as the saviour of pop after winning six Grammy awards and selling 17 million albums, revealed that she now intends to depart the stage.
The all-conquering singer, whose earlier heartbreak fuelled her best-selling 21 album, said she would take up to five years off in order to focus on her relationship with boyfriend Simon Konecki, an Old Etonian charity fundraiser.
Adele, 23, told US Vogue: "I am f****** off for four or five years. If I am constantly working, my relationships fail. So at least now I can have enough time to write a happy record. And be in love and be happy." She may choose to retire from show business altogether. "And then I don't know what I'll do. Get married."
Whilst an extended career-break might complete the Tottenham singer's joy, it could prove disastrous for the struggling music industry. Adele's dominance of the charts generated a 1.4 per cent increase in US album sales last year, reversing years of decline.
Adele's UK album sales pushed the market share of British artists to their highest levels for 15 years, the BPI said.
Her record companies, the UK independent label XL and their Stateside partner Columbia, part of the Sony Entertainment group, were anticipating a third blockbuster Adele album next year.
It was what Adele described as a "rubbish relationship" which inspired the 21 album. But in the Vogue interview the singer, 23, described her blissful existence with the 37-year-old Konecki, with whom she is "madly in love".
"He's wonderful. He looks after me. I don't think I would have gotten through the recovery if it hadn't been for him," said Adele, referring to the serious surgery she underwent last year to remove polyps from her vocal chords.
The bearded Konecki, known as "Swampy" to his friends, is chief executive of Drop4Drop, a Brighton-based charity which works to bring access to clean water to people in developing countries. A contemporary of Tom Parker Bowles at Eton, Konecki was the director of an investment holding company but left the City because of his "leftie views" to found the bottled water company, Life. He has a daughter from a 2004 marriage to fashion stylist Clary Fisher. The couple divorced four years ago.
Her enforced silence when she recovered from throat surgery changed Adele's perspective on life. "I've never fully appreciated the things that I've achieved until now," she said. "In fact, my entire life has changed in the last 10 weeks. I've never been so happy, and I love it."
Some industry figures believe Adele could follow the example of Kate Bush, who retired from public performance and retreated into domesticity, emerging every seven years or so to present a new album. But those hoping for another 21-style album, with huge hits like "Someone Like You", are secretly hoping the path of true love runs into a few obstacles. As Adele told Vogue: "I love a bit of drama. That's a bad thing. I can flip really quickly."
Hit the pause button: Stars who took a break
Leonard Cohen The mournful songwriter did no harm to his reputation for isolation when he gave up music for life as a Buddhist monk in 1994 and took the name Jikan, meaning "silence". He made a comeback in 1999 – and is surely the only singer to have a period of his career labelled "the post-monastery era".
Kate Bush After releasing seven albums in 15 years, the singer disappeared from public view in 1993 to spend time with her family and bring up her son, Bertie. In 2005 she made a comeback with the album Aerial. However, she has yet to make a live comeback following her only tour in 1979.
Captain Beefheart A cult figure who influenced many rock bands from Oasis to Red Hot Chili Peppers, yet never secured a mainstream fanbase himself, Don Van Vliet, better known as Captain Beefheart, retired from music after his 1982 album Ice Cream For Crow to pursue a passion for painting.