Immortal Status: Looking back on Adele's '21,' now 10 years old

Categories:  Music    The Arts
Wednesday, February 3rd, 2021 at 1:34 PM
Immortal Status: Looking back on Adele's '21,' now 10 years old by Terrique Johnson

It’s been 10 years since pop-star and legendary recording artist Adele released her sophomore studio album, “21.” The 13-song onslaught of passionate soul-searching melodies, combined with hard hitting and vulnerable lyrics, would hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, supported by three songs that also hit the top of the Hot 100 chart: “Set Fire to the Rain,” “Someone Like You” and of course “Rolling in the Deep.”  

Adele would make history as she held the top spot on the UK charts for 11 weeks, as well as becoming “the first living artist since the Beatles in 1964 to have two titles simultaneously in the top five of both the U.K. singles and album charts,” according to Billboard.  

“21” is the highest grossing album of the 21st century, selling over 31 million copies, and she won six Grammy Awards for the record, making her the youngest ever (23 at the time) to receive that many. She'd tie Beyonce’s record for the most Grammy wins by a female artist in a single night (Billie Eilish came close in 2020 with five).

All accolades and reviews aside, “21” is undoubtedly worthy of a relisten. It’s the perfect rite of passage project, Adele opening herself up as a young woman scorned, unapologetically exposing all her stages of grief as she recovers from a bad breakup. She takes listeners on a journey through confusion, anger, regret, pity, closure, relapse, and finally moving on from a broken partnership. You don’t even need to be in love to feel the deep affection Adele had for this romance. As she paints a picture of how it crashed and burned, you will run through a wave of reactions that may have you looking in the mirror as a victim or potential perpetrator of emotional warfare. 

It’s fair to say Adele wasn’t really on many people’s radars when she burst on the scene with this fabulous record. However, her voice is so majestic and her music is so relatable that people began seeking out her other material. Her debut album, “19,” released in 2008, would actually peak at #4 on the Billboard 200 in 2012 and amid the Grammy success.  

The Grammy run was how I was introduced to Adele. It was 2012 and Bruno Mars had just performed “Run Away Baby” from his album “Doo Wops & Hooligans.” I had been parading around claiming Mars’ record was “front to back,” a term used when every single track on an album is a hit. The crowd loved Mars’ performance and he was nominated for multiple awards, so I just knew my boy was bringing home the gold. Nevertheless, time after time, he would be nominated and Adele would walk away with the win. 

Feeling Bruno was snubbed like so many other of my favorite artists in the past, I went on a mission to download “21” so I could see what the (over)hype was all about. But before I made it halfway through, I was in complete agreeance with the Recording Academy. I hadn’t heard such an inclusively relatable body of work regarding love and love lost since “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.” And that was just the half of it! After completing the album, I had come to the conclusion that every single song, from front to back, could easily compete with each other as “the one that hit home.” Tracks like “He Won’t Go,” “I’ll Be Waiting” and “One and Only” were never hits according to the charts, but reign supreme as heart throbs and stomach knotters. 

With this album alone, Adele reached immortal status in music. Beyonce said, “She takes you to a place other artists don’t go to anymore — the way they used to in the 70s.” The fans say it, the critics say it and the charts say it: "21” is an absolute classic. Adele followed up “21" with “25,” released in 2015, which also hit No. 1 and is her most recent studio album to date.

Terrique Johnson is a staff writer for The Spectator. He can be reached at

Tags: music review

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