The flurry of publicity accompanying the long-awaited new release by London singer Adele includes an elaborate ruse. A gaggle of Adele impersonators is infiltrated by their heroine disguised as 'Jenny', a fellow impersonator. Waiting backstage to audition, the 'Adeles' discuss their icon, unaware she is in their midst. It's not until she takes to the stage and starts to sing that the imitators realise who she is. Viewers' knowing giggles turn to there's-something-in-my-eye wobbles at their reactions.
It's had nearly 30 million views since Friday. It's popped up in timelines accompanied by 'happy tears' emoticons, moving even the I-wouldn't-usually-post-things-like-this crowd to share. The impersonators' emotional responses, and the idea behind the prank, reminded me of a few things. Quicker than you can shout 'sermon illustration' I'm there with the thoughts. I'm even typing this wearing a prosthetic chin.
The video is about identity. A group of people who have dedicated their lives to emulating someone they love discover she has been in the midst of them all along (wherever two Adeles are gathered etc...). They have come together because they love, respect and honour what Adele does. They are happy to identify not just with her, but as her. To be defined at first glance by the rest of the world by all Adele represents. They don't all look like her – different in height, hair colour, size and sex – but they have changed themselves to be identifiable as imitators of her and are proud to do so.
It's about belonging and community. The Adeles are supportive of each other. Despite taking up the same space, and offering the world the same marketable skill, they are kind to each other. They operate as a team. When 'Jenny' misses her cue on stage one of the Adeles breathes deeply in empathy. When she fakes nerves and leaves the room, they share sympathetic glances and one whispers "Bless her..." They feel each other's pain and joy. Rather than competing, they share their big moment and celebrate their time with their hero.
It's about creativity and what we do with our gifts. The Adeles are all talented people. To consider taking to a stage and singing requires a certain confidence you're not going to be mistaken for a fire alarm (confidence I don't have for reasons I may only tell a therapist). Instead of just singing in the shower the Adeles have identified their similarity to a world-renowned talent, put aside ambitions to be known by their own names and dedicated themselves to celebrating Adele and helping make her famous. It's likely at least some of them have bigger dreams, but for now they're about Adele.
It's about knowing. So dedicated are they to studying every detail of Adele's persona they state with certainty what she would like. They feel they know her, just from what she has made public. When it starts to become clear their heroine is in front of them the Adeles clutch each other in shock. One realises within seconds it's her. Another, 'Doubting Adele', insists repeatedly it's not her until, finally convinced, she joins the others singing along in awe, waving their arms and hugging each other. They have studied Adele so closely she is recognisable by her sound, tone and gestures. They know her.
And you've already jumped straight to the spiritual bit, haven't you? The Road to Emmaus story that ends with two bewildered Jesus-wannabes looking at each other in shock and saying (paraphrased slightly from the King James) "Arrrgggh! That was him! All along! And I kinda knew, you did too, didn't you? Yeah ya did. No mistaking him once he opened his mouth." Just like the Adeles did. Maybe it's so moving because the big, beautiful thing of coming face to face with the one you've chosen to follow and realising they were next to you all along touches hearts and tear ducts.
You're right – I have now committed in words published on the unforgiving, unforgetting internet to likening Adele to Jesus. Kind of. If you'll excuse me, I need to get my stick-on beard adjusted before I'm due on stage.