Photo: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic
Adele Turns '25': For The Record
Reminisce about Adele's Album Of The Year GRAMMY-winning history
Like its predecessors, 2008's 19 and 2011's 21, her 2015 smash hit album 25 was based off the soulful British singer/songwriter's age at the time she wrote it. A comeback album of sorts, 25 marked the first time Adele said "Hello" in four years, and what a welcome "Hello" it was indeed.
Not only did the album smash sales chart history, becoming the fastest-selling album of the 21st century and the hands-down best-selling album of 2015, but she earned five GRAMMY nominations: Album Of The Year and Best Pop Vocal Album for 25 and Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best Pop Solo Performance for the album's first single, "Hello." She won each award.
In addition, her win for Album Of The Year marks her second career Album Of The Year win, having earned the honor for 21 at the 54th GRAMMY Awards. This means Adele made GRAMMY history as only the second woman to win Album Of The Year twice in their career for their solo recordings. Taylor Swift was the first when she won for 1989 at the 58th GRAMMY Awards.
Adele made the 59th GRAMMYs even more memorable with her performance of "Hello" opening the show, her now-infamous tribute to George Michael, during which she started the song over, and her heartfelt shout-out to fellow Album Of The Year nominee Beyoncé's GRAMMY-winning project Lemonade.
But Adele also underscored the team of collaborators, including producer Greg Kurstin, who helped make her comeback possible.
"As you can see, it took an army to make me strong and willing again to do it," Adele said during the acceptance speech for Album Of The Year. "I thank you all from the bottom of my heart."
Photo: Jemal Countess/WireImage for Songwriter's Hall of Fame
For The Record: How Taylor Swift's 'Speak Now' Changed Her Career — And Proved She'll Always Get The Last Word
The third Taylor Swift album to receive the 'Taylor's Version' treatment, 'Speak Now' isn't just a time capsule for the superstar — it was the turning point for her both personally and professionally.
As Taylor Swift began work on her third album, she knew all eyes were on her. The singer had solidified her status as a bonafide country-pop superstar thanks to her sophomore LP, 2008's Fearless, which earned Swift her first four GRAMMYs, including Album Of The Year. Meanwhile, her personal life had become non-stop fodder for the tabloids; critics painted her as a boy-crazy maneater ready to chew up exes for the sake of hits.
While her first two records had largely centered on romantic daydreams and small-town adolescence, Swift's new level of fame meant her next set of music would involve more high-profile subjects. Like, say, the rapper who'd tried to humiliate her in front of the entire world at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. Or the Hollywood starlet she was convinced had stolen her pop star boyfriend. Or the critic who had taken a particularly vicious swipe at her on his well-known industry blog. All of those moments pinwheeled around a common theme: speaking up, speaking out, speaking her truth. And the result became Speak Now.
"These songs are made up of words I didn't say when the moment was right in front of me," Swift wrote in the LP's liner notes. "These songs are open letters. Each is written with a specific person in mind, telling them what I meant to tell them in person."
Swift's Speak Now era officially began in August 2010, when she released "Mine" as the album's lead single. The rollout was expedited by two weeks after the song leaked on the internet, but even with an earlier-than-planned release, the star immediately proved she was pushing her songcraft past the high school hallways and teenage fairytales of her first two albums — a level of maturity that rang through Speak Now.
"Mine" told an altogether different kind of love story, one that confronted the daunting realities of adulthood head-on. Instead of the hopeless romantic fans had come to know on past hits like "Love Story" and "You Belong With Me," Swift positioned herself as the jaded protagonist at the tale's center, one whose walls are only broken down by this new, grown-up kind of love.
Becoming her fourth top five hit on the Billboard Hot 100, "Mine" also contained a particularly flawless turn of phrase in its chorus — "you made a rebel of a careless man's careful daughter" — that remains, to this day, one of the best examples of Swift's razor-sharp talent for crafting the perfect lyric.
The rest of Speak Now — which Swift wrote entirely alone as a mic drop against critics — proved to have the same kind of brilliance. Swift had unleashed a new layer of her songwriting ability; not only did she dive deeper into the unveiled honesty of her diaristic style, but she also hinted at the whimsical storytelling that was to come on future albums, particularly 2020's folklore and evermore. But above all, Speak Now showed that Swift would never leave anything unspoken again.
Swift's evolution as a songwriter mirrored her growing success: Upon its October 2010 release, Speak Now sold an eye-popping 1,047,000 copies in its first week. The seven-digit sales figure nearly doubled Fearless' opening week tally of 592,300, and became the first album to achieve the million-copy first-week feat in more than two years. (The achievement also foreshadowed the records Swift would break with her subsequent releases, most recently her majorly record-breaking 10th album, Midnights.)
Nearly every track on Speak Now had fans and the press hunting for clues about who was on the receiving end of Swift's open letters. There's "Back to December," a break-up ballad written for Taylor Lautner, and "Better Than Revenge," a condescending clapback at Camilla Belle for "sabotaging" her romance with Joe Jonas. She even offered Kanye West a surprising amount of grace after their viral VMAs moment on the downtempo ballad "Innocent."
Arguably the most talked-about Speak Now subject was (and still is) John Mayer, who had two songs aimed squarely at him: pop-punk-fueled single "The Story of Us" and "Dear John," a devastating dressing down of their 12-year age gap. The latter even mimicked Mayer's trademark blues guitar as Swift wailed, "Dear John, I see it all now, it was wrong/ Don't you think 19's too young/ To be played by your dark, twisted games when I loved you so?/ I should've known."
Perhaps the most victorious moment from Taylor's Speak Now era, though, came from "Mean." The banjo-tinged tune served as a deliciously twangy clapback to critic Bob Lefsetz, who had publicly derided Swift's 2010 GRAMMYs performance with Stevie Nicks, just hours before she was awarded Album Of The Year for the first time.
Not only did "Mean" end up winning Best Country Song and Best Country Solo Performance at the 2012 GRAMMYs, but Swift also got the last word by performing the single during the ceremony. In the final chorus, Swift landed her knock-out punch — the music dropped out completely as she triumphantly declared, "But someday I'll be singin' this at the GRAMMYs/ And all you're ever gonna be is mean."
Nearly 13 years after Speak Now was first unveiled, Swift is now on the precipice of giving her beloved third album its highly anticipated Taylor's Version re-release — appropriately the third project after Fearless and Red to be re-recorded in her history-making quest to own her life's work.
The new edition of Speak Now will contain all 14 tracks on the original LP as well as sixth single "Ours" and fellow deluxe cut "Superman." (Though released in March to celebrate the start of The Eras Tour, "If This Was a Movie" was mysteriously left off the (Taylor's Version) tracklist.) It will also feature six vault tracks from the era, including collaborations with Paramore's Hayley Williams ("Castles Crumbling") and Fall Out Boy ("Electric Touch"), two acts Swift said "influenced me most powerfully as a lyricist" back when she was recording the album in 2010.
As the lone LP in her now 10-album discography to be written solely by Swift's pen, Speak Now undoubtedly holds a special and solitary place in the superstar's heart. Looking back on the album after announcing the Taylor's Version release at her first Nashville Eras Tour stop, she made clear it has only become more meaningful over the last 13 years.
"I first made Speak Now, completely self-written, between the ages of 18 and 20," she wrote in a social media post announcing the album. "The songs that came from this time in my life were marked by their brutal honesty, unfiltered diaristic confessions and wild wistfulness. I love this album because it tells a tale of growing up, flailing, flying and crashing…and living to speak about it."
Photo: John Shearer/MTV VMAs 2021/Getty Images for MTV/ViacomCBS
10 Albums On Divorce & Heartache, From Fleetwood Mac's 'Rumours' To Kelly Clarkson's 'Chemistry'
Divorce albums have been a staple of the music industry for decades. Take a look at some of the most notable musings on a breaking heart, from Kacey Musgraves, Kanye West and more.
Divorce can be complicated, messy, and heartbreaking. But those feelings are prime fodder for songwriting — and it's something that artists of all genres have harnessed for decades.
Writing through the pain can serve many benefits for an artist. Marvin Gaye used Here, My Dear as a way to find closure in the aftermath of his divorce. Adele told Vogue that her recording process gave her somewhere to feel safe while recording 30, a raw account of the aftermath of her marriage ending. And Kelly Clarkson's new album, chemistry, finds her reclaiming herself, while fully taking stock of everything that happened in her marriage, good and bad.
As fans dive into chemistry, GRAMMY.com has compiled a list of 10 divorce albums from all walks of music. Whether you need to cry, vent, or maybe even laugh, there's a divorce album that has what you need.
Tammy Wynette, D-I-V-O-R-C-E (1968)
During her life, Tammy Wynette was a prolific country songwriter and singer, releasing numerous albums exploring all aspects of love. She was also deeply familiar with divorce, with five marriages throughout her adulthood.
The most intimate album on the topic is her bluntly titled 1968 project D-I-V-O-R-C-E, which explores how sensitive the topic was to speak about. The title track is a mournful tune about hiding a separation from her children, but also conveys the general difficulty of discussing the topic with anyone. Elsewhere on the album, "Kiss Away" is a longing ballad about wishing for a more tender resolution when words have failed.
Fleetwood Mac, Rumours (1977)
After recording 10 albums together, Fleetwood Mac were in disarray. During the recording of their eleventh record, the members of the band were going through affairs, divorces, and breakups, even some with each other. Against all odds, they created Rumours — and it became the band's most successful and iconic album.
The spectrum of emotions and sounds on the album is wide. "The Chain" is all fire and bombast, while the laidback acceptance of "Dreams" seeks to find peace in the storm. Fleetwood Mac sorted out their issues and are still going strong to this day, but their heartbreak created something special in Rumours.
Beck, Sea Change (2002)
Beck has had a prolific career, with 14 studio albums to his name. One of his most affecting is 2002's Sea Change, written in the aftermath of his engagement and nine-year relationship ending.
It's a deeply insular album, even by Beck's standards. Tracks like "Already Dead" are slow and mournful, while standout "It's All In Your Mind" finds him burrowing deep into his own thoughts to parse out how exactly he's feeling with his new life.
Open Mike Eagle, Anime, Trauma, and Divorce (2020)
Divorce isn't a topic that immediately brings laughter, but rapper Open Mike Eagle seemed to find humor in his personal story with his album Anime, Trauma, and Divorce. The album title gives a pretty good rundown of what inspired the project, and Mike's laidback rapping sells how silly the aftermath of pain can be.
"Sweatpants Spiderman" finds him trying to become a functional adult again, and discovering the various ailments of his aging body and thinner wallet that are getting in the way. The fed-up delivery on standout track "Wtf is Self Care" is a hilarious lesson on how learning to be kind to yourself post-breakup is harder than it sounds.
Carly Pearce, 29: Written In Stone (2021)
Heartbreak is a common topic in all genres, but country has some of the most profound narratives of sorrow. Carly Pearce added to that legacy with 29: Written in Stone, her 2021 album centered around her 29th year — a year that included both a marriage and a subsequent divorce.
The emotional whiplash of such a quick change can be felt all over the project, from an upbeat diss track like "Next Girl" to more poignant pieces like the title track, which finds Pearce reflecting on her tumultuous year. Her vulnerability resonated, as single "Never Wanted To Be That Girl" won Pearce her first GRAMMY, and her latest single, "What He Didn't Do," scored the singer her fourth No. 1 at country radio.
Kanye West, 808s & Heartbreak (2008)
Kanye West's fourth album 808s & Heartbreak came from a deep well of pain. Besides the end of his relationship, West was also in turmoil from the death of his mother, Donda. The result is one of the bleakest sounding records on this list — but also one of West's most impactful.
808s & Heartbreak is minimalistic, dark, and brooding, with a focus on somber strings and 808 drum loops (hence the album's title). West delivers most of his lyrics in a monotone drone through a thick layer of autotune, a stylistic choice that heightens the sense of loss. Besides being a testament to West's pain, the electronic sound pioneered on 808s & Heartbreak would serve as a foundational inspiration for the next several years of hip-hop.
Toni Braxton & Babyface, Love, Marriage, & Divorce (2014)
Toni Braxton and Babyface are two stalwarts of R&B in their own rights, and in 2014, the pair connected over their shared experiences going through divorce. Their bond sparked Love, Marriage, & Divorce, a GRAMMY-winning album that intended to capture the more universal feelings the life of a relationship conjures up.
Each artist has solo tracks on the record — Babyface wishing the best for his ex on "I Hope That You're Okay" and Braxton sharing her justified anger on "I Wish" and "I'd Rather Be Broke" — but where they shine is on their collaborations. The agonizing "Where Did We Go Wrong?" is heartbreaking, and the album ends with painful what-ifs in the soulful "The D Word."
Adele, 30 (2021)
Divorce is hard no matter the circumstances, but it gets even more complicated when children are involved. That was the reality for Adele, and it served as major inspiration for her fourth album, 30.
Like every album on this list, there's plenty of sorrow on the record, but what really sets it apart is just how honestly Adele grapples with the guilt of putting her son Angelo through turmoil as well. The album's GRAMMY-winning lead single "Easy On Me" addresses it in relation to her son, and standout track "I Drink Wine" is a full examination of the messy feelings she went through during her divorce.
Kacey Musgraves, star-crossed (2021)
As many of these albums prove, divorce triggers a hoard of emotions, from anger to sadness to eventual happiness. On star-crossed, Kacey Musgraves goes through it all.
There's the anthemic "breadwinner" about being better on her own, "camera roll" looking back on happier times with sorrow, and "hookup scene" about the confusion of adjusting back to single life. Star-crossed sees Musgraves continue to evolve sonically — incorporating more electronic sounds into her country roots — but ultimately, she comes out the other side at a place of renewed acceptance and growth.
Kelly Clarkson, chemistry (2023)
Kelly Clarkson's tenth album chemistry was born out of her 2020 divorce. In true Kelly fashion, she addresses the subject with thoughtful songwriting and a pop-rock vibe fans have adored for 20 years on.
Chemistry focuses not just on the pain of divorce, but on the tender feelings that many couples still have for each other even after the end. Tracks like "favorite kind of high" mirror the euphoria of love, juxtaposed with ballads like "me," in which Clarkson finds comfort in herself and her inner strength — an inspiring sentiment for anyone who has had their heart broken.
Raven B. Varona
Look Inside Adele’s Extended Las Vegas Residency: Photos & Social Media Reactions
“Weekends With Adele,“ the singer’s residency at the Colisseum at Caesar’s Palace has been extended into November. Take a look inside the 16-time GRAMMY winner’s stint in Sin City.
Sixteen-time GRAMMY winner and 25-time nominee Adele had a strong showing at the 2023 GRAMMYs; she won Best Pop Solo Performance (“Easy On Me”) and collected six nominations, including Album Of The Year (30), Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year.
Now, this leading light’s residency at the Colisseum at Caesar’s Palace, dubbed “Weekends With Adele,“ has been extended into Nov. 2023; the original run stretched from Nov. 2022 to Mar. 2023.
Accordingly, photos and social media reactions of the vocal phenom are all over the Internet. Below, immerse yourself in Adele’s reinvigorated Vegas residency, which opened June 16.
All photos by Raven B. Varona.
Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for AD
Adele's Biggest Songs: 12 Tracks That Highlight Her Monumental Success & Stunning Vocals
As Adele kicks off her second run of her Las Vegas residency, Weekends With Adele, revisit the pop phenom's most beloved hits and signature deep cuts, from "Hometown Glory" to "Easy On Me."
When thinking of defining artists of the 21st century, it doesn't take long for Adele to come to mind. Since her rise in the late 2000s, the London-born singer has captured the hearts of millions with her disarming wit and a powerful voice that is practically unmatched.
In the 15 years since her debut album, 19, introduced her to the world, Adele has reached heights few others ever achieve. She's one of the best-selling artists of all time, she has collected countless awards (including 16 GRAMMYS), and she has sold out arenas around the globe. Between the unabashed honesty of her lyrics and the gravity of her voice, Adele's music has earned her enduring adoration.
Adele's charm and cultural impact have most recently come to life through her sold-out Las Vegas residency, Weekends With Adele. The shows — which initially ran from November 2022 through this March — are a journey through many of the mega-hits fans love, and a celebration of her illustrious career so far. They've seen such acclaim and high demand that Adele added 34 more dates through Nov. 4, kicking off June 16.
As Adele begins the second leg of her Vegas residency, GRAMMY.com looks back at some of the defining songs from beloved superstar's discography.
"Hometown Glory," 19 (2007)
Technically the fourth single from 19, "Hometown Glory" is actually the first song Adele wrote. It was originally released as an introductory standalone single in 2007, giving a glimpse into Adele's relatable songwriting.
While there are elements that make it unique — like an extended piano intro before Adele begins to sing — it's still easy to pick up on the traits that would later make her a star. The vocal intensity is already there, as is her love for human connection. "The people I've met are the wonders of my world," she sings on the chorus, a sentiment that would carry on throughout her career.
"Chasing Pavements," 19 (2008)
The single that put Adele on the map, "Chasing Pavements" contains many of the elements that define 19. It leans more heavily into the singer/songwriter world than Adele's later work, with verses scored by mellow and understated guitar — a contrast to the big, powerful chorus that incorporates soulful melodies and jazz-like horns.
"Chasing Pavements" gave Adele early success and recognition, becoming her first entry on the Billboard Hot 100 and her first Platinum single. It also snagged the singer her first GRAMMY (for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance) as well as nominations for Record and Song Of The Year.
"Rolling in the Deep," 21 (2010)
Adele cemented her staying power with her sophomore album, 21. The first offering from the LP, "Rolling in the Deep," perfectly introduced the more expansive sound and power of the new record. Driving, forceful production from Paul Epworth is matched by a more confident, determined Adele, as she lays into a terrible ex: "Think of me in the depths of your despair/ Make a home down there, as mine sure won't be shared."
Adele's assertiveness spoke to listeners: "Rolling in the Deep" became her first No. 1 single and helped her win the trifecta of Record, Song, and Album Of The Year at the 54th GRAMMY Awards.
"Rumour Has It," 21 (2011)
Coming right after "Rolling in the Deep" on 21, "Rumour Has It" arrives with a bang. Co-written and produced by Ryan Tedder, the track is all soul and blues, built on looping vocal harmonies and a funky guitar line.
More than anything, this track showcases Adele's writing range, proving that she can pen an uptempo pop pleaser alongside her slower ballads and heartstring tuggers. The rhythmic clapping, vocal flourishes on the bridge, and piano outro all helped Adele unleash her feisty side that audiences hadn't seen much of at that point.
"Someone Like You," 21 (2011)
The new musical elements introduced on 21 undoubtedly helped Adele reach new levels of success and artistry. Even so, one of its standout tracks is a reminder that she doesn't need a lot of help to shine.
"Someone Like You" is as simple as it comes — nothing else but Adele and a piano. The result is perhaps her most well-known ballad, which laments on the ending of a relationship with intense emotion. Its connection with listeners and massive success — another No. 1 spot on the Hot 100, a GRAMMY, and six-time platinum certification — on the heels of "Rolling in the Deep" were instrumental in propelling Adele's career forward.
Writing a theme song for a James Bond film is a big deal — and means you're a big deal. One of the most storied franchises in film history, the Bond movies have included themes written by stars like Paul McCartney and Madonna. Adele joined that list in 2012 with "Skyfall," the titular theme for Bond's 23rd adventure.
The track allows Adele to lean more into her theatrical side, with dramatic lyrics soundtracked by swelling strings and horns. It's a thrilling listen, and gave Adele an Oscar for Best Original Song — the first Bond theme to ever win the award.
"Hello," 25 (2015)
After the massive success of 21 and "Skyfall," Adele went on hiatus for three years. While rumors swirled about an album in early 2015, she didn't confirm her third record, 25, until a month before its November release. Along with confirmation came "Hello," an earth-shattering return that portended 25's acclaim and success.
The album's opening track, "Hello" finds Adele revisiting an old flame in signature fashion: a soaring chorus that puts her towering vocals on display, amplified by awe-inspiring percussion instrumentals from producer Greg Kurstin. The single remains one of her most successful, hitting the top spot on charts around the world, going seven times platinum, and earning her Record and Song Of The Year at the 59th GRAMMY Awards.
"Water Under the Bridge," 25 (2015)
By this point in Adele's career, it was clear that she could master any song or production you give her. While 21 expanded the number of genres she pulled from, 25 introduced maximalist pop production to embellish her bluesy tone.
"Water Under the Bridge" is a perfect example of one of Adele's sonically densest tracks. Another Adele/Kurstin collaboration — with help from another new collaborator and pop mastermind, Max Martin — the upbeat track features a chorus that fills the senses with piercing drums and layered backing vocals, all of which beg to be played at full volume.
"River Lea," 25 (2015)
Alongside pop delights and powerful ballads, Adele tapped into gospel on 25 with "River Lea.". While Adele dabbled with gospel influences before, it was never as openly as the haunting keys that comprise the main instrumental.
Production is provided by the multi-instrumental Danger Mouse, who sprinkles a hip-hop beat into the otherwise haunting track. The result is one of Adele's most arresting tracks, with a sound that's equal parts old-school dirge and pop hit.
"Easy on Me," 30 (2021)
In the six years between 25 and Adele's fourth album 30, her world fell apart. Besides the impact the pandemic had on the world, she and her longtime partner Simon Konecki divorced. Much of 30 finds Adele coming to terms with life after marriage. This includes lead single "Easy on Me," which sees her asking for grace as she figures out how to move on.
The piano-backed track is full of pain and sadness, with the hurt evident in her voice as sings lyrics like "I changed who I was to put you both first/ But now I give up." It set an early picture of Adele's emotional state, and offered poignant foreshadowing to 30's journey of healing and moving forward.
"My Little Love," 30 (2021)
Adele has never shied away from being vulnerable, but "My Little Love" may be the most open she's ever been on a track — and perhaps that has to do with the song's subject, her son Angelo. A slow burning, jazzy piano tune, "My Little Love" Adele continues to explore her feelings over how the divorce has impacted her child.
What really sets the song apart is the inclusion of voice notes that contain Adele's own musings in the immediate aftermath of her divorce, as well as snippets of conversation between her and Angelo. ("Mummy's been having a lot of big feelings recently," she tells Angelo on the bridge; "I feel a bit frightened that I might feel like this a lot," she admits at the song's close.) It's a stunningly raw look at Adele's personal life unlike anything she had delivered before.
"Can I Get It," 30 (2021)
Anyone who has watched an Adele interview or seen her live knows that, despite being known for singing sad tales, she has a charmingly funny personality. As clips of her Vegas show highlight, she loves to tell jokes, and has a bright, lively presence — and "Can I Get It" is a musical depiction of that.
In the middle of a rather heavy album, "Can I Get It" is straight fun, with a groovy production from Martin. It showcases Adele's jovial side, with some of her flirtiest lyrics ("You tease me with your control because I long to live under your spell.") It's one of many ways Adele has shown both her emotional range and musical versatility — a combo that has made her an incomparable pop legend.