10 Years of ’21’

10 Years of ’21’

This past weekend marked 10 years since the release of Adele’s sophomore LP and the biggest album of the 21st century, 21.

21 came three years after 19, which was a moderate commercial success but a big hit with the critics, earning Adele two Grammys in 2009. The critics loved her because, in so many ways, Adele satisfies the unwritten requirements that make an artist “legit” in the eyes of your average critic: she’s white and makes music that is blackish but leaves enough room for the dedicated to pretend that it’s rock (it isn’t); she’s British; she’s decidedly modest in presentation; she writes her own songs and they’re generally autobiographical; and her music is depressing.

Unlike the average critic darling, however, Adele’s music is actually good. And following many raved-about televised performances in 2009, more and more people took note. By the next year, the music-buying public was primed for some more Adele.

Interestingly, Adele wanted to move in a different direction for her sophomore album — a more upbeat direction. However, due to writer’s block, she took a break from recording. Cue the devastating breakup.

Heartbroken and despondent, Adele returned to the studio to literally sing the blues. She poured all of her misery into her music, and 21 was born. The album goes back and forth between rage and despair, but never strays from its central theme: heartbreak. One can only wonder if a happier album would’ve been as successful — probably not — but thanks to her lived experiences, Adele was able to give the people exactly what they wanted.

In the final quarter of 2010, Adele dropped 21‘s lead single, “Rolling in the Deep,” and nothing was the same. The song was not just a hit — it was the kind of hit that everyone wanted to cover. You literally couldn’t escape it.

“Rolling in the Deep” topped the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks. It would be followed by two more No. 1s: “Someone Like You” and “Set Fire to the Rain.”

To say 21 was a juggernaut would be an understatement. It spent 24 weeks at No. 1, which is a record for a female artist, and another 24 weeks at No. 2. As far as chart performance is concerned, it is the most successful album in the history of the Billboard 200. It was the best-selling album of 2011 and 2012, and is among the best-selling albums of all time, with over 31 million units sold across the globe.

As you can imagine, 21 cleaned up at the Grammys because the Recording Academy never denies an artist that is “legit” but also does big numbers. Adele tied Beyoncé’s record of six Grammys in one night, but unlike Bey, three of Adele’s six were in the major categories. Y’know…because she’s “legit” and Beyoncé clearly isn’t, but I digress.

All in all, 21 is a solid body of work that has aged well over the last decade. My favorite track from the album is “Don’t You Remember.” Check it out below.

1 Comment
  • 10 Years of '4' - No Hipsters Allowed
    Posted at 22:50h, 24 June Reply

    […] Katy Perry and Rihanna, for instance, were at the height of their popularity. And lest we forget Adele, who was in the midst of a history-making era. 4 failed to crack the top 10 with any of its […]

Post A Comment