Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Adele and William Shatner on Musical Performance Anxiety

Musical Performance Anxiety- even Adele has it!

In her interview with 60 Minutes, Adele admits to having sometimes crippling stage fright and performance anxiety before singing. She has intense messaging in much of her music and is bearing her soul to thousands each time she sings.  Adele admits her nerves have gotten worse as she’s becoming more successful.   “There's a bit more pressure and people are expecting a lot more from me.  I'm not going to succeed-- people aren't going to enjoy it.   Nervous that I'll ruin their love for my songs by doing them live. I feel sick. I get a bit panicky. I have thrown up.”;contentBody

Stage fright is real and can be crippling.  It also can work for your benefit if you learn to control it to a certain degree.  The nerves fuel adrenaline that gives you energy and the desire to achieve.  Imagining yourself in the song and reliving the emotion of the song can channel that energy to the positive.  It is seen on Adele’s face each time that she performs “Rolling in the Deep” that she relives the pain of her breakup.  By doing so, she controls her fears and channels her energy into the emotion of the song.  Now she says  “It is as if I have a clean slate now.  But I know if I were to go on a big tour right now, it would go again. The exhaustion of it all."

In the words of Jonathan Dickins, Adele’s agent, “She was obviously nervous - talk about going into the deep end. That's a testament to Adele, that her first singing performance public in over five months was the biggest music awards show in the world. You know, that alone -- you've gotta be a pretty remarkable character to take that on in the first place, and she actually did.”

One thing we tend to forget is that we should really think about the audience after the performance.  Take in the applause and response of the audience and then you know how you did.  Do you need to re-evaluate or did you do a good job?  Jonathan Dickins after Adele's performance says,  “It was fantastic - it was great to see her like that. That to me was the most nerve-racking thing of the night. I wanted her to feel relaxed about that. So to see the reception and see how happy she looked afterward, that was like an extra win”.

The overall rejuvenation one gets after performing should overcome our musical performance anxiety.  The knowledge that we shared our music and a piece of ourselves should trump any fear that we may have.  Knowing our limits and listening to our bodies and our souls is the best thing we can do. 

William Shatner also discusses musical performance anxiety- fear of failure.


  1. I just arrived here because I thought Adele's overinflections when singing are just as tasteless and over-the-top as much of Shatner's acting. I guess I am alone in that judgment.

    To be fair I think Shatner is a genius.

  2. Singing from the heart is never tasteless. I think you would agree that to perform to the way everyone thinks you should perform is simply impossible. It does not mean inflections are overdone or a performance is tasteless.