The traditional gift for a one-year anniversary is paper. Though, considering that Adele has sold more than 6 million copies of her breakthrough album 21 since its U.S. release one year ago this week, trust us, paper is the one thing the Grammy-winning British songbird has plenty of.
What she’s also racked up over the past 52 weeks is a gang of awards, records and amazing feats of music industry daring that most people thought just weren’t possible in the download era. So, on the anniversary of the unstoppable album’s chart debut, we thought we’d take a look back at the year that was, with 21 amazing facts about 21.
1. In February 2011, 21 debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart with first-week sales of 352,000 copies. It stayed in the top three for 24 consecutive weeks and has never fallen out of the top 10 since its release.
2. In the year since its release, 21’s lowest chart position was #7, in November 2011. The following week, it was back at #2, and it hasn’t left the top three since.
4. The album’s 21 weeks atop the chart also mean that it spent a staggering 40 percent of the past year as the country’s #1 album.
5. 21 was not only the best-selling album of 2011 in the U.S. — with sales of more than 5.8 million — it’s also the best-selling digital album of all time in this country, racking up more than 2 million downloads to date.
6. The album debuted at #1 in the U.K. upon its release on January 30, 2011, and held that spot for four weeks. After she sang “Someone Like You” on the BRIT Awards telecast, sales increased by nearly 900 percent on Amazon.co.uk within an hour of her performance. She also set a Guinness World Record in September 2011 by becoming the first female artist to have two singles and two albums in the U.K. top five simultaneously.
7. 21 was also the best-selling album of the 21st century in the U.K., passing Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black.
8. 21 has topped the charts in 27 different countries, including Switzerland, Sweden, Mexico, Poland and Greece, and has sold more than 17 million copies worldwide.
9. In the U.S. alone, 21 has sold more copies in one year than Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream, Lady Gaga’s Born This Way, Rihanna’s Talk That Talk and Beyoncé’s 4 combined.
10. After canceling the remainder of her tour in October to undergo vocal surgery, Adele has played just 34 North American shows in support of 21.
11. Even more incredibly, she’s released just three official singles off the album in the U.S., with a fourth (“Rumour Has It”) set to hit radio next month.
12. One of those singles, “Someone Like You,” was released as a digital track in February 2011, right around the time the album hit stores here in the States, but didn’t take off until after Adele performed it at the MTV Video Music Awards in late August: In September 2011, it leapt from 19 to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, giving it the biggest jump to the top position in the chart’s 53-year history that wasn’t tied to the release of a single.
13. According to Billboard, “Someone Like You,” was the first piano-and-vocal-only ballad to top the Hot 100 chart since its founding in 1958. That feat is even more incredible considering that 1,008 songs have made it to #1 on that chart, but all, even Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind,” featured additional instruments.
14. The runaway success of 21 set off a worldwide manhunt for the dastardly ex-boyfriend who inspired the amazing kiss-off “Rolling in the Deep.” According to the New York Post, that mystery man is a British musician/actor named Slinky Winfield. Legend has it she began writing the tune just hours after their nasty breakup.
15. How big a hit was “Rolling”? It was the biggest crossover song in the past 25 years, according to Billboard, showing up on a dozen different radio format lists — even Latin — and charting on the magazine’s Adult Contemporary, Alternative Songs, Hot Dance Club Songs, Hot R&B/ Hip-Hop Songs, Rock Songs, Pop Songs and Adult Pop Songs charts.
16. Aside from its inherent awesomeness, some have speculated that “Rolling” became such a huge hit Stateside because of its intriguing title. Adele explained that she chose a British slang, “roll deep,” as inspiration, referring to knowing that someone always has your back in a fight. “And that’s how I felt in the relationship that the record’s about, especially ’Rolling in the Deep,’ ” she told Rolling Stone magazine. “That’s how I felt, you know, I thought that’s what I was always going to have, and um, it ended up not being the case.”
17. All that heartbreak paid off at the 54th Grammy Awards, where Adele swept the top categories and went six-for-six on the night. The mark tied her with Beyoncé for the most wins in a single night by a female artist.
18. Included in her Grammy haul were the awards for Album, Record and Song of the Year, making Adele just the sixth artist ever to sweep the so-called Big Three, joining a list that includes Paul Simon, Carole King and Eric Clapton.
19. When combined with the Best New Artist Grammy she won in 2009, Adele is just the second artist to have won the Big Four awards, alongside Christopher Cross.
20. If you count Paul Epworth’s Producer of the Year win, 21’s seven total Grammys make it the sixth-most-honored album in the awards’ history, trailing only U2’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, Santana’s Supernatural, Norah Jones’ Come Away With Me, Ray Charles’ Genius Loves Company and, uh, Thriller.
21. 21 was honored with exactly 31 pounds, 8 ounces of Grammys , a weight equal to 20 dozen eggs, four gallons of water or exactly one young emperor penguin.