Adele's 21 has owned the albums charts since its late-February 2011 release and it continues to dominate, tallying 18 non-consecutive weeks at #1, more than any album since Garth Brooks' 1991 smash Ropin' the Wind and just a few weeks shy of tying the 20-week record set by "The Bodyguard" soundtrack and Elvis Presley's Blue Hawaii. It's fitting that the much-acclaimed mega-selling set heads into Sunday's Grammy Awards as the odds-on favorite to score one of the night's biggest trophies: Album of the Year.
The bulk of the songs on 21 were inspired by Adele's failed relationship with a man 10 years her senior. Following the success of her moody, ballad-heavy debut, 2008's award-winning 19, the singer sought to make a more-upbeat and contemporary-sounding record. Sessions for the set fell apart, however, resulting in only one completed track, "Take It All." The song was written after a fight with her boyfriend, and when Adele played him the song, it instigated a heated argument that ended their relationship.
Heartbroken but musically reinvigorated, Adele immediately hit the studio and began channeling her heartbreak into lyrics, pouring her feelings into songs that tackled her failed relationship from a variety of angles. To help her carve out the album's sound, she assembled a top-notch team of veteran producers, including OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder (who has helmed tracks for Beyoncé, Jennifer Hudson and David Cook), Paul Epworth (Florence and the Machine, Cee Lo Green) and music legend Rick Rubin, the co-president of Columbia Records and co-founder of Def Jam, who has worked with everyone from Johnny Cash and the Red Hot Chili Peppers to the Dixie Chicks and the Beastie Boys.
Adele had achieved some chart success with 19 and its single "Chasing Pavements," but no one could have expected what would happen when 21's lead single, "Rolling in the Deep," hit American radio in December 2010. The song connected across formats, making a quick leap to the top of the pop and adult contemporary charts, before assuming the pole position on the Billboard Hot 100 for an impressive seven weeks.
Propelled by the massive success of "Rolling," 21 debuted at #1, moving an impressive 352,000 units in what would be the first of many frames at the top of the Billboard albums chart. The album received near-universal acclaim from critics, many of whom named it one of the year's best albums and compared Adele's soulful performance on the record to peak Amy Winehouse, saying her voice was "a raspy, aged-beyond-its-years thing of full-blooded beauty."
But one song does not make an album, and there's far more to Adele's 21 than just "Rolling in the Deep." She's since garnered two other #1 singles from the record — "Someone Like You" and "Set Fire to the Rain" — and briefly toured her native U.K. and the United States behind the album before a series of vocal problems resulted in a vocal-cord hemorrhage that forced her to scrap her tour. She underwent surgery in early November to repair the problem and appears to have made a full recovery as it was recently announced that she would perform at this year's Grammys.
Do you think Adele has Album of the Year locked down, or do Bruno Mars, the Foo Fighters, Lady Gaga and Rihanna still have a shot? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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