It's been more than a year since Adele released her second album, 21, in the UK, but he run seems unstoppable. In the past couple of weeks, she won six Grammy Awards, the highest amount by a female in one ceremony (tied up with Beyoncé). 21 spent its 21st week being Billboard's number 1 album, making it the longest running number 1 album by a female in Billboard's history, beating Whitney's soundtrack for The Bodyguard. It is currently number 1 on both the US and UK iTunes, and her last single Set Fire To The Rain is top 10 in the US charts. She also performed at the Brit Awards this week, going home with Best Female Artist and Album Of The Year prizes.
21 is the biggest selling album of 2011 and the biggest female selling album ever in the UK. If this wasn't impressive enough, 21 has now officially become the first album in history to receive the double platinum certification for its sales on iTunes in the US.
These facts are both impressive and intriguing. Cancelled tour dates, a long period of silence and throat surgery did not affect the hype and success surrounding Adele's latest album. Glee did a mash up of Someone Like You and Rumor Has It and it also went to No. 1 on iTunes. The pull of these songs is so big that they simply shine, with or without Adele. The awaited releases of established artists like Jay Z and Kanye West didn't stop it. New talented artists like Lana del Rey didn't stop it. They may have snatched the top away from Adele for a while, but she was quick to reclaim it back.
She sang for the first time after her surgery at the Grammy Awards, a ceremony watched by 48 million people, earning a standing ovation afterwards. The week of the Grammys, 21 sold about 750.000 copies in the US alone. An album that has been out for a year managed to sell more than most albums sell on their first week. Worldwide, it has sold around 19 million copies.
It seems that the love for 21 is pretty much universal, but why is it so?
Adele is a pop artist (who loves the Spice Girls) yet looks out of place next to Lady Gaga or Katy Perry. She is beautiful but doesn't use her appearance with marketing purposes: she doesn't identify with Rihanna's bad girl image, neither with Taylor Swift's good girl one. Adele is snarky, loves to swear and is frankly hilarious which is an interesting contrast to the seriousness of her music. She is humble, her personality is charming, but it will go unnoticed for most part of the non-English speaking audience. 21, however, seems to reach out to everyone in their own language.
Adele's album is about a very particular heartbreak, her own, but the feelings it represents are relatable to everyone. She has a great voice and is impeccable while singing live, but is any of this indispensable when it comes to success? Not really.
An article by the Wall Street Journal, titled 'Anatomy of a Tear-Jerker' suggests that the success of songs like 'Someone Like You' can be somewhat explained thanks to a musical phenomenon known as 'appoggiatura'.
"An appoggiatura is a type of ornamental note that clashes with the melody just enough to create a dissonant sound. "This generates tension in the listener," said Martin Guhn, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia who co-wrote a 2007 study on the subject. "When the notes return to the anticipated melody, the tension resolves, and it feels good."
Thought this theory might be true, it's unlikely to think that this musical device is unique to Adele's music.
Perhaps it is a case of hype coming to a full circle. Adele releases a good album that sells well and everyone talks about it. Because everyone talks about it, more people find out about her and buy her album. She sells so many records that she makes headlines and more people find out about her who also go and buy it.
Whether Adele has found the formula to success or the world spontaneously came together to embrace something special, '21' is a pretty damn good album, deserving of all the praise, the sales and the awards. And when they are being given to Adele, no matter how much time it has gone by, it never feels unfair. If anything, you find yourself wishing, 'keep 'em coming'.
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