Adele, the soulful British pop diva who's had this coming for a long time, has the first blockbuster album of 2011 with 21. She's atop the Billboard charts this week, having sold 350,000-odd copies. This is a welcome development no matter how you look at it: Take a tour through her recent barrage of late-night appearances if you would like evidence of her talent as a singer. Adele's also ripping apart the soft competition with her previous effort, 19 which came out three years ago and is climbing the charts.
Adele made a slightly less successful U.S. push back in 2009 on the material from 19, appearing on the SNL episode that also featured a cameo from Sarah Palin. She also won a Grammy for Best New Artist that year, and it is a neat trick of fate that she was preceded by Amy Winehouse in that category.
Now, of course, the latter is mostly known for being a train-wreck, but her soulful voice was once the star attraction. Adele gets plenty of Winehouse comparisons, but they exist on distant ends of whatever common ground they share. Adele does uptempo with plenty of power (see: "Rolling in the Deep"), but it's the spacious ballads that she truly elevates. Listen to current UK number one single "Someone Like You" below.
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21 is a break-up album featuring songwriting and production contributions from heavyweights ranging from Rick Rubin to Dan Wilson (who fronted Semisonic and more recently wrote "Not Ready to Make Nice" for the Dixie Chicks). It's a nice change of pace from the dance-pop confections currently inhabiting Top 40 radio. We will be the first to defend Ke$ha, but sometimes we want a little substance with all that glitter-coated candy, even in our pop music. Be the 17,244,852nd person to watch the "Rolling in the Deep" video below.