Like Whitney, Mariah, and Céline, Adele is a one-name artist, who needs no shock value or theatrics to entertain, but simply a microphone and a stage. With over 120 million records sold worldwide, off of three albums released across a matter of 13 years, Adele has already become one of the best-selling musical artists of all time. The London-born songstress has made a career for herself, all thanks to those golden pipes and a couple of heartbreaks. At only 19, the world feasted in the emotional outpouring of a girl going through the motions that we all do after a breakup. Now, at 33, she’s still feeding us. Adele has transformed herself into merely an outlet for consolation, becoming our go-to for a good cry and a musical muse for grief.
Her latest release, “Easy On Me” (released October 15, 2021), marks the return of the British diva. Like most of Adele’s best works, the song is a revealing account of the personal and private love life of the adored musician. Serving as the lead single for the star’s upcoming fourth studio album, 30 – set to be released November 19, 2021 – Adele confessed in a rare Instagram live video that the new album will be about “divorce, babes, divorce.” After a short-lived marriage, she and entrepreneur Simon Konecki separated in 2019. Their divorce was finalized in March of this year. The couple have a son together, Angelo James, 9.
Now, on the heels of a quote-on-quote “sad girl autumn” dubbed by many, fans are prepping for Adele to take the world by storm all over again, with their tissues on standby. One could only imagine how reflective 30 will be, and how many more precious one-liners we’ll get to use during the throes of our next breakup. But for the time being, we’ll use what we already know. And love. In honor of the superstar’s return, here is a ranking of every commercial single released by Adele.
ADELE: ALL THE SINGLES, RANKED:
15. “Cold Shoulder” – This Mark Ronson-produced track is one of the few Adele songs that doesn’t sound like the conventional Adele piano-plushed sobfest. Gritty, yet emotionally truthful, Adele croons “You shower me with words made of knives,” all the while still admitting to having feelings for her ex. Who hasn’t?
14. “Hometown Glory” – In this ode to the star’s hometown of West Norwood, Adele revels in the kind of nostalgia that can only be brought on by homesick blues. As a matter of fact, Adele is said to have written this song in about 10 minutes, after an argument she had with her mother over her mother’s suggestion of the future songstress to leave her hometown to go to school in Liverpool. “Hometown Glory” would be the first song Adele would ever write and serve as the closing track on her debut album, 19. Adele reminds us here that, after all, there’s no place like home.
13. “Water Under The Bridge” – The last single taken from Adele’s 25 studio album shows the singer in a much different light than usual. Here, she’s still probing over one thing – love. Only this time, tissues aren’t required. “Water Under The Bridge” is able to lyrically induce our heartstrings, while also pumping extra life into the veins, thanks to its catchy production and chanting echoing choir serving as the perfect background noise.
12. “Skyfall” – In 2012, Adele recorded this single as the theme song for the newly released James Bond film, Skyfall. In keeping with the tradition of other Bond numbers, the song followed all the ingredients of classic 007 style – sulky and seared in suspense. The atmospheric orchestration, mixed with the dexterity of Adele’s near-perfect vocals, makes “Skyfall” one of the most memorable songs of the James Bond franchise. Aside from becoming one of the best-selling digital singles of all time, the song also granted the star with a bundle of awards, including the Academy Award for Best Original Song, a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song and a Brit Award for British Single of the Year.
11. “Turning Tables” – Although this song failed to make the same chart impression as 21’s other singles did, “Turning Tables” still stands as one of the more harrowing and perhaps underrated songs of Adele’s repertoire. Written about a physical dispute between her and her beau, Adele’s anguish is painted all over this track from start to finish. “I won’t let you close enough to hurt me / No, I won’t rescue you to just desert me,” she sings. If you haven’t cried from any of the songs mentioned on this list yet, you will now.
10. “Rumour Has It” – If you were to ever tell someone that Adele was a lounge singer from way back in the day after just one spin of this bluesy number, they would probably believe you. Adele’s voice is one of those voices that can belt, swing, and coo. Be it a piano-driven centerpiece or a stomping rock ‘n’ roll setting, Adele can do it all justice. And, “Rumour Has It” proves just that. Taken from the singer’s career-defining album 21, “Rumour Has It” didn’t seek inspiration from Adele’s ex-boyfriend like the rest of the album did, but rather… well, rumors about her breakup started by the media. Unlike the heartbreak anthems in the rest of Adele’s catalog, “Rumour Has It” is a giant middle finger to a lost love that won’t leave you crying, but laughing at even the thought of reconciling.
9. “Make You Feel My Love” – This Bob Dylan cover serves as the only song from the singer’s debut album to not have been written by her. This simple, modest declaration of one’s affection might be sonically different from Dylan’s folksy original, but if anything, Adele proves just what to do if ever covering a song – make it even better than the original. And that’s exactly what she did.
8. “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” – Perhaps the snappiest song in Adele’s canon, “Send My Love” is the perfect balance of survival and forgiveness. “I’m giving you up / I’ve forgiven it all / You set me free,” she declares. If there’s any kiss-off track that can give a big F.U. to an ex but also gleefully bring a smile to your face, it’s this one.
7. “When We Were Young” – Much like “Hometown Glory,” this track is rooted in reminiscence. “When We Were Young” basks in all the glory of a past life, giving you the sense that you’re at a class reunion 20 or 30 so years later, remembering the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s poignant, yet satisfying, and Adele’s sublime vocal runs only make you wish you could listen on and relive those memories for hours longer. In a recent installment of Vogue’s 73 Questions YouTube series, the singer revealed that “When We Were Young” is one of her personal favorites. “I really love that song. I love singing it. It means a lot to me,” she said.
6. “Chasing Pavements” – In “Chasing Pavements,” we find Adele questioning her relationship, deciding whether or not she’s better suited for the empty streets ahead of her or with the once-upon-a-time love of her life. The song became the singer’s first breakthrough hit in the U.S., peaking at #21 on the Billboard Hot 100. Adele’s smoky vocals and earnest lyrics laced over the soulfully pop production of “Chasing Pavements” marked the perfect introduction of what was in store for the U.K. songstress and the emotional baggage she was about to lay heavy on the rest of us.
5. “Set Fire To The Rain” – Released as the third single from 21, “Set Fire To The Rain” continued Adele’s streak of Billboard Hot 100 number-ones, and rightfully so. With a foreboding production and a roaring vocal prowess, she sings, “I set fire to the rain / And I threw us into the flames,” getting rid of the slightest hope or chance of a resolution. Buuuurn, quite literally. The song was even voted by Billboard readers as being their favorite number-one hit of 2012, and its catchy hook and radio-friendly charm might just be the reason why.
4. “Easy On Me” – The most recent release from the superstar shows the singer at her most vulnerable. Here, she’s tackling a different kind of breakup – divorce. “Go easy on me, baby / I was still a child / Didn’t get the chance to / Feel the world around me,” she admits. By now, Adele has become synonymous with breakup records, but “Easy On Me” somehow depicts a more mature side of the singer, seemingly showcasing the growth of a woman who’s been hurt by love again and again, and still trying to dull the pain. Although the chorus may not be as bombastically hitting as some of the star’s other anthems – “Someone Like You,” “Hello” – the song’s stirring honesty makes it among her best works, and a telling indication as to what fans can expect to hear when 30 drops next month.
3. “Rolling In The Deep” – If nobody knew who Adele was before this song dropped, they were about to find out. The critically acclaimed “Rolling In The Deep” propelled Adele’s career to newer, greater heights. A direct sendoff to an unfaithful lover, the first single off of the star’s sophomore release had people of all ages singing their hearts out to either real-life or make pretend partners. A 60’s-inspired soul smackdown, “Rolling In The Deep” features a booming, hands-clapping gospel accompaniment, with Adele is right at its core, front and center. After becoming her first number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and turning Adele into a household name, the single became perhaps one of the biggest crossover hits on the charts in years. As of 2019, it remains the best-selling digital single of all time, with sales of over 20 million copies worldwide. From then on, Adele proved to many that there’s power in abandonment. Her soft side would become a staple in her songs, but here her abrasiveness is just as defiant.
2. “Hello” – At 21, Adele turned her breakup into a blockbuster album. At 25, Adele was still reeling, but this time more sentimentally than scorned. “Hello” is a pick-up from where her past left off. In it, she sings more conversationally than on her previous efforts – “Hello, how are you? It’s so typical of me to talk about myself, I’m sorry.” When describing the record, Adele labeled 25 as a “make-up record,” with its lead single not being about any one thing or person in particular. Rather, “Hello” is a reflection of past relationships and circumstances, as well as her own relationship with herself. A gentle nod to growth and change, “Hello” reminds us of the fact that nothing truly ever stays the same, serving as a salute to one’s yesteryear. Its subdued introduction is awoken by a thrashing chorus and an Earth-rattling climax. An immediate success, the song reached number-one in a record-breaking 36 countries. As if it wasn’t already made clear, “Hello” proved Adele’s talent alone outshines any record she touches – be it big production-wise or piano balladry.
1. “Someone Like You” – “I heard that you’re settled down / That you found a girl and you’re married now,” are the opening lines of this heartfelt goodbye. “Someone Like You” is quite literally the quintessential Adele song – a simplistic arrangement, top-tier vocals, and lyrics that rip your heart right out of your chest. The same breakup that inspired Adele to write this song inspired most (if not all) of the other material on Adele’s 21. While most broken hearts end up stagnant in bitterness, though still hurt, Adele is still giving her blessing to her past love, teaching us all a lesson in the art of letting go. “Someone Like You” became the singer’s first number-one hit in her homeland, as well as the recipient of countless awards and recognitions. To this day, it remains one of her signature pieces and can still strum up the waterworks as easily as it did 10 years ago. It’s safe to say that this one song has healed many, many, many lonely hearts. And, for that, we all owe Adele a collective thank you.