Personalities | Adele | 21

Adele’s second offering, 21 (again, named for the age at which she wrote it), was released in January 2011. Though still a ‘break-up’ album inspired by heartbreak – this time a different ex – it differs slightly in style from 19, as it contains Nashville country and blues influences she picked up while touring the US.

The new album would prove to be a much bigger hit than her debut and, by February 2012, was certified 14 times platinum at home. Success in the States was also forthcoming, with the album holding the top position in the charts longer than any other since 1990.

‘Rolling In The Deep’, ‘Someone Like You’ and ‘Set Fire To The Rain’ were instant chart toppers and the album hit No. 1 in 18 countries. By December 2011, it had reached over 3.4 million copies in the UK, becoming the biggest-selling album of the twenty-first century when it overtook Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black. Adele was pleased with her songwriting, calling the tracks the ‘most articulate’ she had produced to date.

Rolling In The Deep

A second failed relationship, this time with a guy 10 years her senior, was the inspiration behind 21. The ex, who has so far not been publicly named, was the one who had caused her to cancel US tour dates in 2008, yet their relationship died a fiery death in 2009, just as Adele was struggling to get work on her second studio album started. The singer has said she intended to create something more upbeat, yet the initial studio sessions only resulted in one track, ‘Take It All,’ a love ballad written about a difficult moment in her relationship. Disillusioned, she cancelled recording dates, but when she played her boyfriend ‘Take It All’, this led to an argument and eventually to a messy break-up.

‘Her singing was so strong and heartbreaking in the studio, it was clear something very special was happening. The musicians were inspired, all of the playing was keying off the emotion on Adele’s outrageous vocal performance.’
Producer Rick Rubin

Once again Adele was heartbroken, yet inspired musically. The day after the argument, she headed straight back to the studio. All notions of ‘upbeat’ gone, she channelled her strong emotions into songs about love and heartbreak. That first day, she felt angry about the events of the night before and was working with the producer Paul Epworth. Together, they restructured an earlier ballad that they had started working on a year previously, making it more ‘aggressive’ at Epworth’s suggestion. The result – smash single ‘Rolling In The Deep’ – was born. Adele told Rolling Stone the title was an adaption of a street-slang term, ‘roll deep’ which refers to someone always looking out for you. It was how she once felt in the relationship with her ex. ‘I thought that’s what I was always going to have, and um, it ended up not...

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Source: Adele: Songbird, by Alice Hudson


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