Here’s a simple fact: in this digital and single-driven age it’s very difficult for artists to sell albums (to say nothing of the overall quality of music, which is an entirely different debate). Yet this British singer-songwriter managed to sell almost 30 million units on the back of just two albums.
A woman with strong, unique vocal talents yet possessing a very down-to-earth persona, Adele Atkins made her studio debut in 2008 with 19, which netted the artist two Grammys and earned her acclaim in the UK. Her big break in the US came after a performance on Saturday Night Live wherein she was lucky enough to be on the same episode as then Republican VP-candidate Sarah Palin.
In 2011 Adele released her sophomore LP 21, written in the aftermath of a tumultuous relationship and nasty break-up. To say it was well-received is an understatement: to date the album has sold 25 million copies worldwide and is the 21st album of the SoundScan tracking era to be certified Diamond in the U.S. (10 million copies sold), a milestone achieved less than two years after it’s initial release. At the 2012 Grammys Adele took home six trophies including Song, Record and Album of the year, making her only the second artist in Grammys history to win all four General Field categories (Best New Artist, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Album of the Year). To this day, 21 is the most successful album on the Billboard 200 ever.
In 2012 she was selected to do the theme for the 23rd Bond film Skyfall; the song earned Adele a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
In November 2015, fresh off of becoming a mother, Adele released her third album 25, which sold more than 3 million units in its first week, an amount unprecedented in the digital era. The titanic record featured an Adele moving thematically into a sense of closure in her relationships. Hailed by critics for being responsible for encouraging the public to purchase physical copies of records, the exact cultural impact of 25 is yet to be realized.