For The Record: Adele's Icon-Making '21' At 10



For The Record: Adele's Icon-Making '21' At 10

Released in January 2011, '21' expanded Adele's sound across timeless heartbreak songs, including "Rolling In The Deep" and "Someone Like You," and crowned the English singer/songwriter a star

GRAMMYs/Jan 25, 2021 - 02:54 am

As dawn was still rising on the New Year in 2011, the music industry was already humming with anticipation. A fast-emerging English songstress named Adele was about to release her sophomore album, 21, and there were signs it could be big. Three years earlier, in 2008, she released her debut album, 19, which earned praise and awards and also gave audiences and the industry just a glimpse of her immense talent and star potential. 19 hinted at a wide sound, a voice unleashed. All of the signs were right.

Taking the promise she showed on her debut album, expanding her influences and showcasing more of her incredible vocal talent, Adele dropped 21 and forever left her mark on music.

21, released Jan. 24, 2011, and Adele didn't come out of nowhere. 19 released to good reviews and solid chart performances for single "Chasing Pavements." Sporting a singer/songwriter, guitar-driven sound, the album made a strong first impression: At the 51st GRAMMY Awards, held in 2009, "Chasing Pavements" was nominated for Song Of The Year and Record Of The Year; it went on to win for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, with Adele taking home the coveted Best New Artist award that night.

While 19 hinted at what was to come from Adele, 21 was an entirely different sound. She opened the album with lead single "Rolling In The Deep," a shrewd move that clearly indicated just how disparate this project would be. The low thrum of the repeated acoustic guitar in the intro that might signify a sense of familiarity quickly gives way to a wider, more intense sound. A steady, sharp drum beat builds tension, and the big, flourishing production on the chorus definitively moved Adele past her days as a no-frills songwriter. 

What sticks out years later, though, are the emotions and the colossal talent on display across 21, even just on this opening track. It's no secret that 21 is an album of pain, born from a relationship with intense highs and a devastating ending. "It was horrible. I was miserable, I was lonely, I was sad, I was angry, I was bitter," Adele told The New York Times in 2015 about writing the album. 

"Rolling In The Deep" oozes with that venom, the pleasure of bringing her ex to his knees, evident in the darker sound and pointed lyrics, which Adele belts with all of the considerable power behind her voice. "Rumour Has It" also features a similar sense of satisfaction: The track basks in the gossip that comes from the fallout of a relationship.  The song reflected a continued growth in Adele's sound, too, this time in the form of modern vocal loops and decidedly retro swing. 

Even as the rollout of 21 was happening, the universality of the album became undeniable. Entire features and large chunks of interviews from the time are dedicated to the idea of Adele as an avatar for everyone, from her starstruck nature around other celebrities to her penchant for swearing to the ease of which she captures the truths of heartbreak. 

Listening now, it's still remarkable how there's a song or two on 21 to match any which emotional stage of a breakup. Ready to burn it all down? "Rolling In The Deep" is there for you. Longing for a new love? The funky "He Won't Go" or "I'll Be Waiting" deliver. And for those who just need to scream and cry, powerful ballads like "Set Fire To The Rain" and "Someone Like You" are Adele's emotional gifts to you. 

The methods and avenues of relationships change as society and technology change with them, but the emotions are always the same. In her deepest moments of heartache, Adele understood this and put all of it into 21, ensuring a lasting impact on people's hearts and minds.

Plenty of albums have tapped into emotional truths; few have endured like 21. The timelessness of the music and the hugely broad appeal of its influences round out the album. Producer Jim Abbiss, who worked on 19, maintained some of the more soul-based and acoustic sounds from Adele's debut, while new faces to Adele's process, like Paul Epworth and the prolific Rick Rubin, added wrinkles that appealed to a much wider audience. 

The prominent use of minor keys in the Rubin-produced "Lovesong" stands out, as do the jazz-based horns and rhythm of the Adele-Epworth collaboration "I'll Be Waiting." At the same time, the whole album is accessible to all through its backbone of piano-based arrangements, with a sound still relevant today and into the future.

Read: Revisiting Adele's Breakthrough: '19' Turns 10

As streaming rose to prominence in the 2010s, and as it continues to dominate in 2021, it is staggering to look back at the mammoth sales numbers of 21: 5.82 million units in 2011 and 4.41 million the next year, with the album topping the U.S. sales charts in both years. The only other artist to even crack 4 million in a year in the U.S. in the 2010s? Also Adele: Her follow-up album, 25, sold 7.44 million copies in 2015. 

As of late 2019, 21 had sold 31 million copies worldwide in its lifespan. These are sales numbers that rarely happen in the 21st century—largely due to the large-scale shift to streaming—yet here is Adele putting up massive figures, regardless. The continued commercial success of 21, even within the last several years, is yet another testament to just how deeply Adele connected with audiences, cutting across all generations and musical tastes. 

By any metric, 21 accomplished what few albums could in the 2010s. Aside from its mind-boggling sales, the album swept the 54th GRAMMY Awards in 2012: "Rolling In The Deep" won for Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best Short Form Music Video; "Someone Like You" won for Best Pop Solo Performance; and 21 won for Best Pop Vocal Album and Album Of The Year.

Still, 21 continues to resonate with audiences in 2021 as much as it did in 2011. Boasting a wide array of musical elements, the album pushed Adele's considerable talents to even newer heights. And for millions of people worldwide, it will forever embody the exact feeling of heartbreak in all its complicated messiness. 

Adele Turns '25': For The Record


GRAMMY SoundChecks With Gavin DeGraw

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

On Aug. 28 Nashville Chapter GRAMMY U members took part in GRAMMY SoundChecks with Gavin DeGraw. Approximately 30 students gathered at music venue City Hall and watched DeGraw play through some of the singles from earlier in his career along with "Cheated On Me" from his latest self-titled album.

In between songs, DeGraw conducted a question-and-answer session and inquired about the talents and goals of the students in attendance. He gave inside tips to the musicians present on how to make it in the industry and made sure that every question was answered before moving onto the next song.


Juan Gabriel named 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year


Juan Gabriel named 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year

Annual star-studded gala slated for Nov. 4 in Las Vegas during 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Week celebration

GRAMMYs/May 15, 2017 - 01:36 pm

 Internationally renowned singer/songwriter/performer Juan Gabriel will be celebrated as the 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year, it was announced today by The Latin Recording Academy. Juan Gabriel, chosen for his professional accomplishments as well as his commitment to philanthropic efforts, will be recognized at a star-studded concert and black tie dinner on Nov. 4 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nev. 

The "Celebration with Juan Gabriel" gala will be one of the most prestigious events held during Latin GRAMMY week, a celebration that culminates with the 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards ceremony. The milestone telecast will be held at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas on Nov. 5 and will be broadcast live on the Univision Television Network at 8 p.m. Eastern/7 p.m. Central. 

"As we celebrate this momentous decade of the Latin GRAMMYs, The Latin Recording Academy and its Board of Trustees take great pride in recognizing Juan Gabriel as an extraordinary entertainer who never has forgotten his roots, while at the same time having a global impact," said Latin Recording Academy President Gabriel Abaroa. "His influence on the music and culture of our era has been tremendous, and we welcome this opportunity to pay a fitting tribute to a voice that strongly resonates within our community.

Over the course of his 30-year career, Juan Gabriel has sold more than 100 million albums and has performed to sold-out audiences throughout the world. He has produced more than 100 albums for more than 50 artists including Paul Anka, Lola Beltran, Rocío Dúrcal, and Lucha Villa among many others. Additionally, Juan Gabriel has written more than 1,500 songs, which have been covered by such artists as Marc Anthony, Raúl Di Blasio, Ana Gabriel, Angelica María, Lucia Mendez, Estela Nuñez, and Son Del Son. In 1986, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley declared Oct. 5 "The Day of Juan Gabriel." The '90s saw his induction into Billboard's Latin Music Hall of Fame and he joined La Opinion's Tributo Nacional Lifetime Achievement Award recipients list. 

At the age of 13, Juan Gabriel was already writing his own songs and in 1971 recorded his first hit, "No Tengo Dinero," which landed him a recording contract with RCA. Over the next 14 years, he established himself as Mexico's leading singer/songwriter, composing in diverse styles such as rancheras, ballads, pop, disco, and mariachi, which resulted in an incredible list of hits ("Hasta Que Te Conocí," "Siempre En Mi Mente," "Querida," "Inocente Pobre Amigo," "Abrázame Muy Fuerte," "Amor Eterno," "El Noa Noa," and "Insensible") not only for himself  but for many leading Latin artists. In 1990, Juan Gabriel became the only non-classical singer/songwriter to perform at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City and the album release of that concert, Juan Gabriel En Vivo Desde El Palacio De Bellas Artes, broke sales records and established his iconic status. 

After a hiatus from recording, Juan Gabriel released such albums as Gracias Por Esperar, Juntos Otra Vez, Abrázame Muy Fuerte, Los Gabriel…Para Ti, Juan Gabriel Con La Banda…El Recodo, and El Mexico Que Se Nos Fue, which were all certified gold and/or platinum by the RIAA. In 1996, to commemorate his 25th anniversary in the music industry, BMG released a retrospective set of CDs entitled 25 Aniversario, Solos, Duetos, y Versiones Especiales, comprised appropriately of 25 discs.   

In addition to his numerous accolades and career successes, Juan Gabriel has been a compassionate and generous philanthropist. He has donated all proceeds from approximately 10 performances a year to his favorite children's foster homes, and proceeds from fan photo-ops go to support Mexican orphans. In 1987, he founded Semjase, an orphanage for approximately 120 children, which also serves as a music school with music, recreation and video game rooms. Today, he continues to personally fund the school he opened more than 22 years ago.   

Juan Gabriel will have the distinction of becoming the 10th Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year honoree, and joins a list of artists such as Gloria Estefan, Gilberto Gil, Juan Luis Guerra, Julio Iglesias, Ricky Martin, and Carlos Santana among others who have been recognized. 

For information on purchasing tickets or tables to The Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year tribute to Juan Gabriel, please contact The Latin Recording Academy ticketing office at 310.314.8281 or

Set List Bonus: Bumbershoot 2013
Grizzled Mighty perform at Bumbershoot on Sept. 1

Photo: The Recording Academy


Set List Bonus: Bumbershoot 2013

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 04:22 am

Welcome to The Set List. Here you'll find the latest concert recaps for many of your favorite, or maybe not so favorite, artists. Our bloggers will do their best to provide you with every detail of the show, from which songs were on the set list to what the artist was wearing to which out-of-control fan made a scene. Hey, it'll be like you were there. And if you like what you read, we'll even let you know where you can catch the artist on tour. Feel free to drop us a comment and let us know your concert experience. Oh, and rock on.

By Alexa Zaske

This past Labor Day weekend meant one thing for many folks in Seattle: Bumbershoot, a three-decade-old music and arts event that consumed the area surrounding the Space Needle from Aug. 31–Sept. 2. Amid attendees wandering around dressed as zombies and participating in festival-planned flash mobs to Michael Jackson's "Thriller," this year the focus was on music from the Pacific Northwest region — from the soulful sounds of Allen Stone and legendary female rockers Heart, to the highly-awaited return of Death Cab For Cutie performing their 2003 hit album Transatlanticism in its entirety.

The festival started off on day one with performances by synth-pop group the Flavr Blue, hip-hop artist Grynch, rapper Nacho Picasso, psychedelic pop group Beat Connection, lively rapper/writer George Watsky, hip-hop group the Physics, and (my personal favorite), punk/dance band !!! (Chk Chk Chk). Also performing on day one was Seattle folk singer/songwriter Kris Orlowski, who was accompanied by the Passenger String Quartet. As always, Orlowski's songs were catchy and endearing yet brilliant and honest.

Day one came to a scorching finale with a full set from GRAMMY-nominated rock group Heart. Kicking off with their Top 20 hit "Barracuda," the set spanned three decades of songs, including "Heartless," "Magic Man" and "What About Love?" It became a gathering of Seattle rock greats when, during Heart's final song, Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready joined for 1976's "Crazy On You."

Day two got off to an early start with performances from eccentric Seattle group Kithkin and Seattle ladies Mary Lambert and Shelby Earl, who were accompanied by the band Le Wrens. My highlight of the day was the Grizzled Mighty — a duo with a bigger sound than most family sized bands. Drummer Whitney Petty, whose stage presence and skills make for an exciting performance, was balanced out by the easy listening of guitarist and lead singer Ryan Granger.

Then the long-awaited moment finally fell upon Seattle when, after wrapping a long-awaited tour with the Postal Service, singer/songwriter Ben Gibbard returned to Seattle to represent another great success of the Pacific Northwest — Death Cab For Cutie. The band celebrated the 10-year anniversary of their album Transatlanticism by performing it from front to back. While a majority of attendees opted to watch the set from an air-conditioned arena, some of us recognized the uniqueness of this experience and enjoyed the entire set lying in the grass where the entire performance was streamed. 

Monday was the day for soul and folk. Local blues/R&B group Hot Bodies In Motion have been making their way through the Seattle scene with songs such as "Old Habits," "That Darkness" and "The Pulse." Their set was lively and enticing to people who have seen them multiple times or never at all.

My other highlights of the festival included the Maldives, who delivered a fun performance with the perfect amount of satirical humor and folk. They represent the increasing number of Pacific Northwest bands who consist of many members playing different sounds while still managing to stay cohesive and simple. I embraced the return of folk/pop duo Ivan & Alyosha with open arms and later closed my festival experience with local favorite Stone.

For music fans in Seattle and beyond, the annual Bumbershoot festival is a must-attend.

(Alexa Zaske is the Chapter Assistant for The Recording Academy Pacific Northwest Chapter. She's a music enthusiast and obsessed with the local Seattle scene.)

Neil Portnow Addresses Diversity & Inclusion, Looks Ahead During Speech At 2019 GRAMMYs

Neil Portnow and Jimmy Jam

Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images


Neil Portnow Addresses Diversity & Inclusion, Looks Ahead During Speech At 2019 GRAMMYs

Jimmy Jam helps celebrate the outgoing President/CEO of the Recording Academy on the 61st GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Feb 11, 2019 - 10:58 am

As Neil Portnow's tenure as Recording Academy President/CEO draws to its end, five-time GRAMMY winner Jimmy Jam paid tribute to his friend and walked us through a brief overview of some of the Academy's major recent achievements, including the invaluable work of MusiCares, the GRAMMY Museum, Advocacy and more.

Portnow delivered a brief speech, acknowledging the need to continue to focus on issues of diversity and inclusion in the music industry. He also seized the golden opportunity to say the words he's always wanted to say on the GRAMMY stage, saying, "I'd like to thank the Academy," showing his gratitude and respect for the staff, elected leaders and music community he's worked with during his career at the Recording Academy. "We can be so proud of what we’ve all accomplished together," Portnow added.

"As I finish out my term leading this great organization, my heart and soul are filled with gratitude, pride, for the opportunity and unequal experience," he continued. "Please know that my commitment to all the good that we do will carry on as we turn the page on the next chapter of the storied history of this phenomenal institution."

Full Winners List: 61st GRAMMY Awards