Adele Should Take a Hiatus. So She Can Learn to Sing

One Philadelphia-based vocal expert says the British belter could learn a thing or two from Patti LaBelle.

It’s already been a big week for Adele. At Sunday’s Grammy Awards, she made her triumphant return to live performance after several months of medically imposed vocal hibernation. Less than 48 hours later, word came that the singer told Vogue that she was going to take a five-year break from the business, concentrate on her love life, and then, perhaps, produce a “happy” album, but today we learn that the hiatus remark was an “offhand comment” and that she’s actually heading back into the studio. That might be the worst mistake of her life.

Ken Querns Langley is a big Adele fan. He’s also a Philadelphia-based vocal instructor, with additional studios in New York and London. Langley spent two decades studying the voice and the last 10 years training professional singers and repairing damaged voices, and he says that a nice long break from recording and touring is exactly what Adele needs.

Langley believes that the very vocal quality of Adele’s voice and the way she’s been trained to sing were factors in her voice problems, which required serious surgery in November. “If you listen to Adele’s voice, she’s basically screaming and yelling all the time,” says Langley, who observes that she doesn’t seem to know how to modify her chest voice to properly hit the high notes that she belts out. “It’s an absolutely lovely, well-positioned voice, and she’s making millions of dollars. People love the way she sings, but it’s dangerous.”

As Langley explains it, the eight-time Grammy winner is also guilty of something called “high-larynx singing,” which, he says, “is notoriously bad.” By analyzing the shape of Adele’s mouth and the position of her head at certain points in her performances, he can tell that the larynx is in the wrong position for singing. “It’s very stressful on the vocal chords,” he explains. “And it’s an indication that something is not good. Any kind of voice professional will tell you that you have to get the larynx down. She needs to change her technique.”

Langley says that Adele needs to learn pharyngeal singing, an open-throat method of hitting the notes. “It’s exactly what Patti LaBelle does,” he says. That’s not just talent. That’s technique, and it would be the best one for Adele’s voice. It would allow her to keep her same quality of voice without hurting her music. It would sound exactly the same to the audience. The only problem is, it doesn’t feel the same to the singer, the singer loses that push. When you’re singing a very emotional song, you want to feel that connection to the voice, that sense of urgency, that belting. When you sing with pharyngeal, you lose that. It feels like you’re faking it a little bit, but to the outside, it’s identical.”

So, Adele could drop her Grammy momentum and go on hiatus to retrain her voice with the hope that she could return many months or years down the line to the same fanfare she experienced on Sunday night. Or, she could get right back in the studio, launch a world tour, rake in bazillions of dollars and cross her fingers that she’s not on a path for more surgery.

Which do you think her fans would prefer?