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Not long thereafter, record companies came calling. An indie imprint called Pacemaker Records issued "Hometown Glory" as a vinyl single in 2007, and by early the next year, Adele had inked a contract with XL Recordings. The album that resulted is filled with songs that chronicle an unpleasant breakup, and she readily enjoys the thought of her ex hearing the likes of "First Love" ("I need to taste a kiss from someone new") and "Tired" ("Fed up of biding your time/When I don't get nothing back"). "It's amazing," she admits, laughing. "He's working in a phone shop, and I'm sitting in a New York office right now, looking out at Manhattan. So I'm very happy."

Although 19 didn't become an immediate smash upon its U.S. release, the album benefited from a lucky break: Adele was the musical guest on the episode of Saturday Night Live that featured a guest spot by Sarah Palin. The Republican vice-presidential candidate "wasn't meant to be on it the week I was on it," she maintains. "She was supposed to be on it the week after. It was really last-minute that she ended up being on the show." This change resulted in a major upgrade in security at SNL's studio. "There were a million Secret Service people! And they kept following me!" she says. "They walked into the dressing room to make sure I was meant to be there." The agents were on hand again at the end of the show, when Adele and Palin met during the ritual goodbye gathering of the episode's performers. She remembers that "they got into a big circle around me while we were talking."

To make sure you didn't lunge at her?

Adele Laurie Blue Adkins doesn't want to peak early.
Adele Laurie Blue Adkins doesn't want to peak early.

"I wasn't going to lunge at her!" she answers amid a booming guffaw. "I don't know. Just to protect her. I would never hit her! She's too little!"

Despite her small size, Palin — and the massive audience she attracted — gave 19 a big boost. Shortly after Adele's appearance, the recording moved from number 46 to number eleven on Billboard's album-sales chart and topped the iTunes roster. Moreover, radio stations began spinning "Chasing Pavements" in greater numbers than ever, bringing the song to the attention of infinitely more Grammy voters.

When the nominations were announced, Adele told the BBC she didn't feel ready to win one of the trophies — a comment that she says was widely misinterpreted. "I think they made me sound really ungrateful in it, really snobby, and I got really pissed off," she confirms. "All I was saying is, I hope on my fourth record I get nominated for a Grammy. I don't want to peak on my first record, like so many artists do, you know?"

After all, in a few years, her songwriting should be much better.

For more of our interview with Adele, go to blogs.westword.com/backbeat.

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