How singer Adele became one of the biggest stars in the universe

Story highlights

  • Adele got her start on MySpace
  • Her new album, "25," is being called the biggest of 2015

(CNN)Even after her first album, "19," made Adele famous in 2008, she was known to pop down to her local pub, sans makeup, for a few drinks.

Back then, she could.
That was back before her sophomore album, "21," made her a Grammy winner. Back before she was the mom of a young son and a superstar whose eagerly awaited "25" album became so massive, it's being heralded as the "it" album of 2015, with a hit single that's sparked everything from Muppet spoofs to "Saturday Night Live" skits.
    But how did a self-described "loud and bolshie" (British slang for unruly and clamorous) gal who reportedly never wanted to be famous dethrone Taylor Swift as the music industry's savior?
    Easily but not very willingly, it seems.
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    Here's how Adele Laurie Blue Adkins became the woman we simply know as "Adele."

    Thank MySpace

    Born in Tottenham, north London, to a mother who was a "trained masseuse, an artist and a furniture-maker" and a Welsh father, a young Adele attended the BRIT School, an institution for the performing arts (the late Amy Winehouse and Leona Lewis are also alumnae). A fan of the likes of Lauryn Hill and Destiny's Child, she said, things changed for her once she discovered jazz and the blues through legends like Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald.
    "Chart music was all I ever knew," she told The Telegraph in 2008. "So when I listened to the Ettas and the Ellas, it sounds so cheesy, but it was like an awakening. I was like, oh, right, some people have proper longevity and are legends. I was so inspired that as a 15-year-old I was listening to music that had been made in the Forties. The idea that people might look back to my music in 50 years' time was a real spur to doing this."
    She left school at 14 but continued making music and in 2006 landed a record deal after executives found her music on MySpace. The rest is, as they say, history.
    "It's a great way of getting stuff out there," she said of the social media site at the time. "I'd much rather 5 million people heard my music than I earned £5 million. I write bulletins and blogs, and I listen to what people say, maybe too much sometimes."

    'SNL' helped make her a star in the States.

    Her debut album, "19," was a hit in the UK, and in 2008, she won the prestigious Critics' Choice at the Brit Awards.
    But it was her luck to land on "SNL" the night 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin made an appearance. Her performance sent her single "Chasing Pavements" racing up the charts, and U.S. fans were smitten.

    Her second album wasn't supposed to be a huge hit.

    The sophomore slump is real, and hopes were muted for 2011's "21."
    After all, Adele had won the best new artist Grammy in 2009, and such a blessing has proved to be more of a curse for other artists.
    But "21," with its woeful tales about a man she loved and lost, not only blew up, it became the first digital album to sell more than 3 million copies before going on to sell over 11 million copies.
    Adele has said the success of "21" overwhelmed her.
    "It got so out of control, and it got so big. ... It just grew limbs of its own and started doing marathon runs," the singer recently told the Australian edition of "60 Minutes."
    "I mean, how is it possible that an album can keep getting bigger and bigger?" she asked. "The fact that I was frightened by it and distanced myself was for no other reason than to live a real life, to write a real record, that's the only reason. How am I supposed to write a real record people can relate to if I'm doing un-relatable things? It's impossible. So that's why I backed off."

    Adele keeps fans wanting more.

    When Adele takes a break, she really goes off the radar.
    In the years since "21" exploded and earned her six Grammys, including album of the year, the singer has given birth to son Angelo with longtime love Simon Konecki.
    They are notoriously private and protective of their child.
    It's an attitude that's the opposite of celebs who document most of their lives on social media, and it's helped the singer both maintain an air of mystery and keep the public intrigued.
    Because previous songs have dealt so much with old loves, Adele knows fans are apt to pick apart "25" for clues about her and Konecki, who has served as chief executive officer of the clean water charity Drop4Drop.
    Adele told Ryan Seacrest, "We're like in a solid relationship, and he's my soul mate and my best mate, and he sees it as my art and my outlet and something that I did before him."
    "Hello" "is not about a past boyfriend or anything like that, but if it was, I think he'd be all right with it anyway, because we're in a strong healthy place," she said. "It wouldn't be an issue."