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The album's melancholia about the passage of time is very real, if slightly premature. "I've had a lot of regrets since I turned 25," she says. "And sadness hits me in different ways than it used to." On the lovely "Million Years Ago," which sounds like a Nineties Madonna ballad mixed with "The Girl From Ipanema," Adele sings, "Sometimes I just feel it's only me/Who never became who they thought they'd be." She's realized that some of the course of her life is set, that some doors are already closed. "There's a lot of things I don't think I'll ever get 'round to doing," she says. "Not because I'm famous, but just because I just don't think I'll ever have the time. Like being a journalist, or like being a teacher."

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Around the time she became pregnant, Adele was feeling overwhelmed by her own success. She was particularly alarmed at 21's insistence on selling and selling at an alarming rate while she was laid up with a damaged voice and doing nothing to promote it. "I felt like I'd lost control of my life at one point," she says. "The bigger that your career gets, the smaller your life gets. I found this little, tiny janitor closet. That was my little space in my whole world. It was enough space for me. It was perfectly fine. But the idea of having to give up that little space, it really frightened me."


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Adele pulls in front of an unlovely three-story brick building, next to a Texaco station. The ground floor is a discount store. Beginning at age 14, Adele lived in an apartment upstairs with her mom, Penny. Her dad has largely been out of the picture since Adele was a toddler — he is her least favorite topic of discussion, and she refuses to attach any importance to his absence from her life. "Mine were the fourth, fifth and sixth windows," she says, pointing them out. Penny had Adele when she was just 18, and they have a fun relationship that Adele might compare to Gilmore Girls if she had ever seen it. She was still living with her mom even during 21's success, and they remain close. "We always spoke about anything," she says. "There was never anything I was embarrassed about with my mom, which I think is the reason I never rebelled." To this day, Adele has never had so much as a puff of weed.

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So she has a squad? "I've heard about a squad," she says with an amused snort. "I wish my squad was all supermodels. We are, in our brains. I guess I have my own squad." She pronounces the word in a comical American accent. "It's not as interesting as some of the other squads that are around right now." She brightens. "But maybe Rihanna can be in my squad! That would be really cool. Oh, God. She's life itself, isn't she? I love her."

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She can't help feeling guilty when her work takes her away from Angelo. "I just feel bad all the time," she says. But she took inspiration from Kate Bush's comeback concerts. "It made me really want to hurry up and finish my record," she says. "It made me desperate, actually, to come back." She had read that Bush's teenage son had encouraged her to return to performing, and she "sort of curated this show around her kid. I left, and I was like, 'I don't want to wait until my kid is 16 to show him who I am.' Because I'm very proud of what I achieved. And I wasn't, before I had Angelo. I didn't understand, actually, what I had achieved and how far I had come. Because everyone wants to do something with their life, and we don't all get the opportunity because shit gets in the way. So I feel fucking so fortunate that the stars just aligned for me and allowed me to have the most ridiculous ride ever."