Shortly after ‘Back to Black’ by Amy Winehouse became the best-selling album of 2010, a young singer-songwriter called Adele Adkins arrived in the British pop institution and decided critical acclaim and 3.5m UK sales just wouldn’t cut it. The rest is history, and as the world awaits a follow-up to ’21’ – the fifth best-selling album ever – we’ve compiled the Londoner’s 10 best songs.
10 Make You Feel My Love
It’s no secret that Dylan’s been off the boil since around 1975, but apparently one of the 23 members of the general public who was still listening when he released ‘Make You Feel My Love’ in 1997 was Adele, who amped up the schmooze and watched the country fall in love. Her version has 82m views on YouTube, approximately 2000 times as many as Dylan’s.
9 Set Fire to the Rain
Adele’s debut single ‘Hometown Glory’ narrowly missed out on a Grammy for Female Pop Vocal Performance to Beyonce’s ‘Halo’. It’s perhaps as an act of retribution that she nabs that tune’s chord progressions for this ‘21’ track, whose verse essentially shimmies a few bars to the left and boogies off to the bank. This is fine, as is its effortlessly soaring chorus, an epic pop confetti-burst every bit as magical as the title suggests.
8 Chasing Pavements
By and large, pop songs are shameless one-trick ponies, acting as vehicles for a stratospheric chorus. It’s undoubtedly true of ‘Chasing Pavements’, which has more chorus than Planet Earth has water. That doesn’t stop it being great, of course, and if the mere mention of its title hasn’t sent its grandiose hook flooding into your brain’s ears, you’re just not real.
Adele picks up her guitar for this acoustic love-song to a bisexual friend. Or is it? “I will find him sitting on my doorstep/ Waiting for a surprise,” she sings at one point, fuelling rumours that ‘Daydreamer’ actually bears testament to the undeniable truth that dogs are, like, way more ballad-worthy than men.
6 Hometown Glory
Adele’s ode to West Norwood is the first song she ever wrote – in ten minutes, apparently – and marked her debut on Jamie T’s Pacemaker Records. Relatively bare-boned, the song chutes down a waterfall-like piano as Adele sings her vision of the city as a place where “the people and the government” are “taking different sides”.
When Adele first mounted her siege on radio playlists, a candlelit, bossa nova Cure cover wasn’t the first thing we expected to find on her debut album. But ‘Lovesong’ is just that, and it’s a peach. Just as seductive as the original, it strolls into the sweet spot between balladeer schmaltz and cool indifference and puts its feet up.
4 Cold Shoulder
“You shower me with words made of knives,” Adele sings on this propulsive, Massive Attack-inspired single from ‘19’. Produced by Mark Ronson, it has the producer’s funky undertones and veers into a he-loves-me-not chorus that would’ve suited his old foil Amy Winehouse.
This James Bond theme sees the vowel-stretching Tottenham native slip the Golden Virginia in her back pocket and draw out the classy cigars. Co-written by Paul Epworth, of 2005 indie renown, ‘Skyfall’ punches through a thick atmospheric fug and comes out triumphant, sounding a bit like Portishead closing an Olympic ceremony.
2 Rolling in the Deep
As mentioned earlier, shaky pop songs have been dining out on great choruses since time immemorial, so it’s all the more satisfying when an authentic banger like ‘Rolling in the Deep’ comes along and delivers on all fronts: verse, chorus, bridge, intro – all gold. Even the video’s a laugh, depicting a grumpy knight dancing in the snow. You can’t argue with that.
1 Someone Like You
There’s a reason ‘Someone Like You’ has become the most covered song since ‘Happy Birthday’, and it’s not because people are really good at singing the high bits. This is one of those pop songs you’ll be playing your grandkids as proof they “don’t make ‘em like that anymore”: it’s touching, powerful, resolutely optimistic and somehow more crushing for it. It’s also fitted with a chorus more epic than Neptune, and probably just as famous. Nothing compares.