This weekend, Saturday Night Live ran what was not the first sketch to tackle the idea of Adele’s universal appeal. The premise was one that is very front-of-mind for most viewers: the annual “agree to disagree” convention otherwise known as Thanksgiving dinner. What do you do when unseemly family members act up at the table, the sketch asks? Why, simply play Adele's "Hello," and the fighting will stop — because when Adele is singing, everyone gets transported to another world, one where wind whips through their really good hair while they reach out their arms and feel the full range of their emotional depths. Adele's voice is so inspiring, SNL joked, it could make a transgender-snickering grandpa (played by Matthew McConaughey) come clean about the real reason behind his phobia.
Adele's ability to elicit such a response will lead to a record-breaking number of people buying (!) an album this week. More extraordinary is the fact that her music unites people across taste lines, walks of life, and, above all, generations. Every era gets at least a few musicians who embody the monoculture, but Adele has quickly transcended that class. Amid an increasingly fragmented pop culture, she’s become one of those infallible beacons of likability -- or, rather, relatability. As The New Yorker notably pointed out last year, that trait -- being relatable -- has never been more widely perceived as one of art’s leading virtues. She’s the pop-game Jennifer Lawrence, an exceedingly “real” and critically beloved young everywoman. By nearly every metric, her success is incredible. But for some of us, it feels quite personal, too.