21 by Adele (CD)

Adkins, A. (2011). 21. [CD]. Washington, D.C, VA: Columbia Records.

Genera: Contemporary R&B

Reading level/ interest age: 16+

Plot summary:

21 was released in 2011 and named to commemorate Adele’s age at the time. Believe it or not, this is the second album to be released by the singer. Her first album was titled 19 and had also been named after her age upon its debut. Adele says she is inspired by Country and Blues music which can be seen better in her 19 album for the Motown and Folk that come through in that album. 21 is more focused on her heartbreak after the breakup with her boyfriend at the time. Lacking the original motivation to release an upbeat album, 21 came forth instead as an outpouring of emotion. 

This album had an amazing rise to success. In the United States, 21 remained on the top charts for over 6 months with similar results in the United Kingdom. As of July of this year, 21 has sold over 30 million copies worldwide (Wikipedia.com, 2014)

Reader’s annotation:

One of the best break-up albums in existence. If there’s an ex you cannot get over, 21 will appeal to the angst and help soothe the anger over the worst of break-ups.   

Information about the author:

“Adele Laurie Blue Adkins was born on May 5, 1988, in North London, England. She was the only child of Penny Adkins, an ‘arty mom’ who was just 18 at the time of her birth, and a Welsh father, Mark, who left the family when Adele was only 4 years old.
Early on, Adele developed a passion for music. She gravitated toward the songs of Lauryn Hill, Destiny's Child and Mary J. Blige. But her true, eye-opening moment came when she was 15, and she happened upon a collection of Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald records at a local junk shop. ‘There was no musical heritage in our family,’ Adele told The Telegraph in a 2008 interview. ‘Chart music was all I ever knew. So when I listened to the Ettas and the Ellas, it sounds so cheesy, but it was like an awakening. I was like, oh, right, some people have proper longevity and are legends. I was so inspired that as a 15-year-old I was listening to music that had been made in the 40s.’

“While at school, Adele cut a three-track demo for a class project, which was eventually posted on her MySpace page. When executives at XL Recordings heard the tracks, they contacted the singer and, in November 2006, just four months after Adele had graduated school, signed her to a record deal” (Biography.com, 2014).

Curriculum ties: N/A

Booktalking ideas:

1.       Why do you think this album was so successful?
2.       If you could write songs, what would they be about? Would you air your dirty laundry too?

Critical evaluation:

21 is a fantastic album filled with the ravings of a heartbroken and very angry young woman. Adele’s voice is absolutely stunning in its power and intensity. It is no wonder that this singer has won numerous Grammys and also needed surgery on her vocal cords! Her lyrics in this album are dark and truthful and carry on with her theme of depression and heartbreak experienced when breaking up. 

Her transformation from angry and cuttingly deep songs like Rolling in the Deep to the more mature Someone Like You is stunning and marks her growth into womanhood as she learns to let go.
The record contains numerous variations on singing styles. For example, Someone Like You starts out with Adele singing a cappella and turns into a simple instrumental melody. Rolling in the Deep and Set Fire to the Rain are two songs with more complex instrumentation that mirror the fiery lyrics of the songs that they back up. 

Adele’s transformation is beautiful to watch as the album progresses through its songs sequentially. Says Adele: 

[21]'s different from 19, it's about the same things but in a different light. I deal with things differently now. I'm more patient ... more forgiving and more aware of my own flaws ... Something that comes with age I think. So fittingly this record is called 21 ... Like a photo album you see [my] progression and change ... throughout the years. I tried to think of other album titles but couldn't come up with anything that represented the album properly (Adkins, 2010).

Challenge issues: N/A

Why included:

With this singer having released this amazingly successful album so early in her life, I want users to become inspired by her to keep trying at their goals in life as well. I think that her lyrics are easy to connect to and perfect for all the angst a teen experiences with their first few relationships.


Adkins, A. (2010). I'm very excited, nervous, eager, anxious but chuffed to announce my new album!
Retrieved October 15, 2014 from https://web.archive.org/web/20110424094802/http://www.adele.tv/blog/160/i-m-very-excited-nervous-eager-anxious-but-chuffed-to-announce-my-new-album

Biography.com. (2014). Adele Biography. Retrieved August 29, 2014 from

Wikipedia.com. (2014). 21 (Adele album). Retrieved October 15, 2014 from

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