Adele’s jaw-dropping sophomore album, 21, officially hit stores in the States on Tuesday (February 22), having already topped the charts in her native U.K. (and most of Europe too). And while it might seem odd for her to be so excited about another release — especially since 21 has been out for more than a month worldwide — the 22-year-old songstress isn’t hiding the fact that she’s anxiously awaiting her first-week numbers here in the U.S. To hear her tell it, she never thought she’d get the opportunity to sell albums here at all.
“Oh, it’s magical being here. I didn’t think I’d ever release a record here,” she laughed. “It’s a big deal in England. There’s a massive thing, like, ’Did you crack America?!?’ The biggest acts in England, no one has any idea who they are here. … I’m not a radio artist here, I’m not on pop stations really, I have these songs that go everywhere. So it really is people are proper behind me here, because I sell records; I don’t sell singles. And that doesn’t happen anywhere.”
And her (presumed) Stateside triumph would be even sweeter considering, during the promotional run for her last album, the Grammy-winning 19, she steeped herself in all things American. And a lot of those influences — country, R&B, bluegrass, jazz, plus a few you might not suspect — are all readily apparent on 21.
“I was a proper sponge when I did my big bulk of American touring. I was on a tour bus, so I was literally driving across America; I wasn’t getting on planes or anything like that. I’d be in Baltimore and hear this amazing, crazy hip-hop, and then be in Atlanta, and then in Texas, Nashville and end up in California. [And] I loved it,” she said. “And that rubbed off on this record. I don’t think I’ve made an Americana-sounding record, but certainly the delivery of a lot of the blues and country and rockabilly artists, and hip-hop. Like, I’m totally fascinated with the way Kanye and Nas and Mos Def manipulate a word to make it rhyme and to make it really fascinating when it’s actually pretty mundane. Analyzing normal things, but making them electric, that’s definitely rubbed off on my delivery and my writing, the way I connect with my songs and channel them.”
And while she’s channeled her love of American music into her new album (and a mysterious hip-hop collaboration that she can’t mention “just in case it doesn’t happen”), what resonates most with fans on both sides of the Atlantic is the unflinching honesty she displays throughout. Songs like “Rolling in the Deep,” “Set Fire to the Rain” and the shattering “Someone Like You” are very much about the death of her first, as she put it, “real relationship,” and that heartbreak not only provides the backbone to the album, but has connected with her fans in a way even she couldn’t have predicted.
“It broke my heart when I wrote this record, so the fact that people are taking it to their hearts is like the best way to recover. ’Cause I’m still not fully recovered. It’s going to take me 10 years to recover, I think, from the way I feel about my last relationship,” she said. “It was the biggest deal in my entire life to date. … He made me totally hungry. … He was older, he was successful in his own right, whereas my boyfriends before were my age and not really doing much. And he got me interested in film and literature and food and wine and traveling and politics and history, and those were things I was never, ever interested in. I was interested in going clubbing and getting drunk.”
And so if (or, more likely, when) 21 tops the Billboard albums chart, Adele will celebrate in her own way. She’s gone through the heartbreak, she’s grown up, and she carries with her a truly tremendous new album. Though someone will probably have to tell her when her album is #1. Even though she’s anxiously waiting for those first-week numbers, she’s actually stopped paying attention.
“I disconnected my Internet,” she laughed. “I have no idea what’s going on!”
Will you be picking up Adele’s latest? Let us know in the comments!