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(Credit: Press / David James Swanson)

Music

Remembering Adele’s blistering team up with Jack White and The Raconteurs

@TomTaylorFO

Adele has a voice that could silence a hurricane. It rattles the rafters of clouds while carrying the wispy weight of whisper, and it has done so since she first emerged onto the scene back in 2006 after she graduated from the BRIT School for Performing Arts & Technology alongside fellow talents Leona Lewis and Jessie J. 

Jack White was quick to notice her talents thereafter. As Adele recalled in a Rolling Stone interview: “The Raconteurs watched us on XL in England, and Jack was like ‘I’m going to love you, let’s do a song together.’ Someone gave my album to him, and he asked me to do a cover of a Brendan Benson song ‘Many Shades of Black’ as the B-side to their version.”

Brendan Benson might be known to some for his solo work, in particular the indie-acoustic ditty ‘Metarie’ which once featured on Scrubs, and it was these early Elliott Smith-like arrangements that caught Jack White’s ear. The pair would later pen songs together in an attic in East Detroit and these summery drinking sessions went on the become The Raconteurs. 

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Benson and White first met in 1998 when both artists were just starting out. As Benson told the Guardian: “I was conspiring to meet him. I just went to the show, and I remember paying to get in and I could hear the band playing and it sounded like a woman, I thought. And then I turned a corner and I saw Jack up there singing these unbelievable songs. I was literally stunned. Mouth gaping. And I just made it a point to meet him.”

Thus, it seems almost symmetrical that when they went on to form a fledgling supergroup drawing plaudits from all corners, they too were stirred by a live act just starting out who would soon be a superstar. And it is almost even more fitting that the song they teamed up for, ‘Many Shades of Black’ is neither in Benson’s usual writing wheelhouse nor Adele’s sonic style. 

Nevertheless, when they were paired together the whole thing tesselated in blistering style. Adele was simply recording her vocal take one day when the whole band walked into the London studio and sparks flew. “I’m such a huge fan of Jack White. And Brendan Benson, I love his writing as well. So that was insane,” Adele told Rolling Stone.

Adele was somewhat in awe of White at the time, as she continued: “He’s really intense, he loves to really look into your eye. I went home and was beeping all my friends. He was lovely. Even if he slapped me, it would have been cool.” Naturally, seeing as though White went out of the way to get her to appear on a mere B-side for The Raconteurs he was also a big fan of Adele.

However, things have seemingly soured since then. In 2017, he famously commented: “There’s a whole world that’s fine with the watered-down version of the original […] Adele selling 20 million records? That would not have happened if Amy Winehouse was alive.” Although he then did later apologise in a personal statement saying he did not mean to slight her talents and that he thinks she has an amazing voice, and he owns her records. 

Aside from all that fallout, this original collaboration is a barnstorming effort—the sort that could joyously shake the malaise of the everyday and doll up any humdrum mood. Full of soul and searing talent there’s a thunderous amount of sonic mastery mingled in with Benson’s poetry, and that makes for a triumphant snatch of thrilling exultation. It is the sort of song that ensures that you simply can’t feel dower while you listen to it.

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