With Adele's new song "Easy On Me" out and her fourth studio album, 30, about to drop this Friday (November 19), we thought it was a great time to go through the British diva's impressive discography and fashion a special top 10 list in her honor!
Adele can be easily described as one of the most successful and influential British artists of her generation. Authentic, ridiculously talented, and known for her undying love for the Spice Girls, she got her start in music after graduating from the BRIT School for Performing Arts & Technology alongside Leona Lewis and Jessie J in May 2006. Even though she originally aimed to go into artists and repertoire (A&R) with a record label, she continued to play acoustic sets like she had when she was a kid.
Eventually, Adele was recommended to a manager and became the first recipient of the Brit Awards Critics' Choice #1 Predicted Breakthrough Act of 2008. After she released "Chasing Pavements," her career went nowhere but up.
We can't wait to hear some more of Adele's new material in just a few more hours! But for now, here's our top 10 favorites of Adele's past work!
10. "Melt My Heart to Stone"
Let's talk about the most criminally underrated song in Adele's discography. It's called "Melt My Heart to Stone," and while other best Adele song lists never forget to include 19 hidden gems like "Hometown Glory" and "Cold Shoulder," they always leave out this extremely influential ballad.
Adele has said "Melt My Heart to Stone" is her favorite song off 19. “I just love it. When I wrote it, I was crying," she told The Guardian as part of their 1000 Songs Everyone Must Hear series. "The song is about breaking up a relationship.”
All the lyrics to the song came out in one take while Adele was recording it. The love, the heartbreak, the whirlwind of wanting to escape the challenging situation...they are all palpable in her performance. We love how this jazzy song takes its time, and Adele's perfectly imperfect vocal cracks when she sings "you say my name." They all help to make this song tragically relatable.
"Melt My Heart to Stone" is so relatable, in fact, that it began a famous dynasty of hip-hop sampling. Long before Childish Gambino was a household name, Donald Glover used a sample of "Melt My Heart to Stone" for his beloved track "Do Ya Like," which was part of one of his final mixtapes, Culdesac. The song then led to young rapper Logic using "Do Ya Like" as a sample for his song of the same name, and once again "Melt My Heart to Stone" was included.
So yes: Adele basically helped launch the careers of two famous rappers with this emotional ballad. The more you know!
9. "Water Under the Bridge"
Adele confirmed in her 2015 Rolling Stone cover story "Water Under the Bridge" is about her then-husband, Simon Konecki. While the title of the song suggests it's about heartbreak, the opposite is actually true.
"Water Under the Bridge" is part of Adele's previous album, 25. It swells and expands with gorgeous instrumentation. It's a song great for casual radio listening, yet feels grand and dramatic thanks to Adele's astounding vocals. Ultimately, it's another relatable song about feeling defensive in love - even when things may be going well.
Adele told Zane Lowe on Beats 1: "'Water Under The Bridge’ is more like, I’m waiting for him to be horrible but I don’t think he’s going to be — waiting for the relationship to end, this is the relationship now that I’m going to be in. It was quite a ground-breaking moment."
8. "Send My Love (To Your New Lover)"
We don't know about you, but this beautiful song with incredible harmonies never fails to give us chills. "Send My Love (To Your New Lover)" is another song off 25 and is directed towards the guy Adele dated between the subject of 21 and Simon Konecki. He previously inspired one other track, "One and Only."
Adele wrote “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” in collaboration with pop-producing giants Max Martin and Shellback. Prior to the recording of this song, Adele hadn’t heard of Martin or Shellback. It was listening to Taylor Swift with songwriter Ryan Tedder that led her to discover their prominence in the pop field.
As for that opening riff...Adele played that on guitar herself! "I’ve had that guitar bass line since I was, like, 15. I used to cover ‘Wonderful World’ doing that riff," she told The New York Times. "It sings over it really well. With [the producers] Max Martin and Shellback, we knocked that out in a day."
7. "Chasing Pavements"
"Chasing Pavements" may not have been the song that made Adele a household name, but it certainly was the song that put her on the map back in 2008. The song was Adele’s first big hit in the United States and earned her one of her first Grammys for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. (She won against Sara Bareilles, Leona Lewis, Katy Perry, P!nk, and Duffy.)
On “Chasing Pavements”, Adele wonders whether or not to try and pursue a relationship with the man of her dreams. You can feel the internal struggle through her powerhouse belting and rising instrumentations in the catchy chorus. The music video was also a hit, and was regularly featured on MTV.
Finally, Machine Gun Kelly later used a sample from this song for his own “Chasing Pavements” off his self-released album Rage Pack.
Adele once called 21 a “break-up record” and 25 a “make-up record.” Her hit song "Hello" is a prime example of reconciliation, not just with lovers: but with herself.
She told Us Weekly, "No, it’s not about anyone specifically. It’s about friends, ex-boyfriends, it’s about myself, it’s about my family. It’s also about my fans as well." She also explained in an interview with i-D, "The song is about hurting someone’s feelings but it’s also about trying to stay in touch with myself, which sometimes can be a little bit hard to do. It’s about a yearning for the other side of me. When I’m away, I really, really miss my life at home."
"Hello" made a huge splash in the music world when it first debuted. The music video broke the Vevo record for the most views in 24 hours with 27.7 million total. (Taylor Swift previously held the record with her video for “Bad Blood,” which had 20.1 million views in a single day.) "Hello" was also directed by Xavier Dolan and was the first music video to be shot by IMAX cameras.
Chart-wise, "Hello" also had massive success. It debuted at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, selling a whopping 1,112,000 downloads in its first week, almost doubling Flo Rida’s previous sales record (636,000 with “Right Round.”) The track significantly broke various streaming records after being replayed 61 million times in its first week.
Between Carpool Karaoke renditions and cute dog memes, "Hello" has played everywhere over the past couple years. We don't blame the fans: it's a mesmerizingly haunting song with a chorus that's hard not to sing along to.
This song had a spot on our recent Top 10 James Bond Theme Songs list, and now we're bringing it back! "Skyfall" is truly a work of genius on Adele's part. It's her sultry flair and taste for theatrical composition that made it cool to make a Bond song again.
After expressing concern about handling the next Bond theme, Skyfall director Sam Mendes convinced Adele to forget about the film's content and just create a song from the heart. She clearly understood the assignment, and "Skyfall" went on to become a critical and commercial success. It received Best Original Song at the 70th Golden Globes, and a year later, won Best Song Written for Visual Media at the 56th Grammy Awards. It's also the first Bond song to receive an Academy Award.
While moviegoers connect the song to Bond drowning in Skyfall's opening title sequence, this song also fits into Adele's own catalogue nicely. Not only is it jazzy and shows off her chops nicely, it's a poignant tune about existentialism, the apocalypse, and standing tall with your fellow man.
4. "Set Fire to the Rain"
"Set Fire to the Rain" may seem like your typical breakup song formula: girl and guy fall in love, he makes all these big promises, then they split and she realizes he was a liar. What sets it apart from other pop standards is its poetic lyricism, swirling hurricane of strings on the chorus, and of course, Adele's blazing vocals.
Adele's not literally setting fire to the rain: she's just metaphorically "burning" her tears away so she can move on. The title of this track is actually a reference to James Taylor’s "Fire and Rain." This song from 21 hit #1 on U.S. charts, becoming her third consecutive song from the album to do so.
She wouldn’t reach such heights again until “Hello” debuted at number one with a shocking 1.12 million copies sold in one week – the largest ever recorded in the U.S. In fact, 25 is the fastest-selling album of all time in the U.S. with 3,378,000 copies sold in its first 7 days.
3. "When We Were Young"
"When We Were Young" may be one of the easiest songs in history to cry to if you're a person who easily gets nostalgic. The second single from 25, this track was inspired by Elton John and has been described as a "‘70s styled shimmery disco ballad.” The piano used on the recording even belonged to iconic minimalist composer Philip Glass.
Adele worked with songwriter Tobias Jesso Jr. and producer Ariel Rechtshaid to craft the dreamy atmosphere of this song, which she said was like a party with old friends and acquaintances, with “everyone that you’ve ever fallen out with, everyone that you’ve ever loved, everyone that you’ve never loved…And you’re all thrown together at this party when you’re like 50, and it doesn’t matter and you have so much fun and you feel like you’re 15 again.”
While "Skyfall" is existential in a "stand up and fight" kind of way, "When We Were Young" is existential in a melancholic way. It's one of those numbers that will take you on a trip across long-forgotten memories. One thing's for sure: this gorgeous song won't make us restless even as we get older.
2. "Someone Like You"
Adele really is the queen of ballads, isn't she? "Someone Like You" is another popular song off 21 and was released as the album's second single. The track was inspired by the broken relationship that inspired most of 21 and closes the record. She wrote it with Dan Wilson: that guy who wrote the beloved song we all sing at the end of the work day, Semisonic's "Closing Time."
"Someone Like You" is one of Adele’s most commercially successful singles. It became Adele’s first #1 single in the U.K. and second in the United States. It's also the first pure-piano ballad to ever top the Billboard Hot 100. At the time of “Someone Like You’s” ascension, there were only 1,008 that had made it onto the chart! The second pure-piano ballad to top the chart was Bruno Mars' “When I Was Your Man.”
Finally, "Someone Like You" won the first-ever Grammy Award for Best Pop Solo Performance at the 54th Grammy Awards in 2012. Empowering yet sentimental, "Someone Like You" perfectly captures that in-between phase of missing the past yet wanting to make new romantic memories after a painful breakup.
1. "Rolling In the Deep"
If "Chasing Pavements" put Adele on the map, it's "Rolling In the Deep" that finally cemented her in the music history books. Sassy like "Rumour Has It" yet ingrained with dramatic heartbreak, soaring vocals, and an infectious drum beat, it's no wonder this track is considered the most popular track on 21.
"Rolling In the Deep" was written in reaction to harassment from one of Adele's previous lovers. "I guess it’s sort of my musical equivalent of saying things in the heat of the moment, and word-vomiting," she said about the revenge song. "It was my reaction to being told that my life is going to be boring, and lonely, and rubbish, and that I was a weak person if I didn’t stay in a relationship. So yeah, I was very insulted, and wrote [“Rolling in the Deep”] as a sort of ‘f--- you’."
Fortunately, the world could relate to Adele's anger. The 2012 song earned Record of the Year at the Grammy’s and hit #1 on U.S. charts, where it became the biggest crossover hit in 25 years.
Additionally, NPR has ranked this as the #20 Greatest Song by a Female or Nonbinary Artist in the 21st Century, saying: "Few contemporary artists can captivate a flock as far-flung as Adele, but there was a time before the mononym became the monolith of pop. Before ‘Hello’ or ‘Someone Like You,’ ‘Rolling in the Deep,’ the leadoff track of 2011’s 21, solidified the Brit’s status, ultimately spending seven weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Despite its ubiquity, the smoldering sendoff got prominent play on Triple A and Adult Contemporary formats alike, ensuring that Adele would come to occupy the CD slots of cars across the country forevermore."
At least Adele doesn't have to worry about not "having it all" anymore. With 30 coming out real soon, we're sure the British pop diva will taste great success and riches once again.
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