From 19 to 30: A look back at Adele's career so far

After a six-year hiatus, Adele releases her highly anticipated fourth studio album, 30, on Friday. CBC News looks back on the British singer-songwriter's career. 

One critic calls Adele's 30 'her toughest, most powerful album yet'

After a six-year hiatus, Adele's fourth studio album, 30, releases on Friday. A number of critics are already calling the album her best work yet. (Cliff Lipson/CBS)

It's the moment Adele fans have been waiting for. After a six-year hiatus, the British singer-songwriter released her highly anticipated fourth studio album, 30, on Friday.

Best known for songs like Hello and Rolling In the Deep, Adele has collected 15 Grammy Awards, and her 2015 album, 25, is estimated to have sold more than 22 millions copies worldwide. Critics say her commercial success will continue with 30, with Rolling Stone calling it "her toughest, most powerful album yet."

CBC News looks back on Adele's career leading up to the release of her new album. 

2008-9: Adele releases debut album

Adele won two awards at the 2009 Grammys, including best female pop vocal performance for Chasing Pavements. (Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

In 2008, Adele released her debut album 19, which features songs like Chasing Pavements and Cold Shoulder. The album won her the first-ever BRIT Awards Critics' Choice the same year. 

In a 2008 interview with U.K. soul writer Pete Lewis, the singer-songwriter said the album represented her life when she wrote it at age 19. "I just kinda remember becoming a bit of a woman during that time," Adele said. "And I think that is definitely documented in the songs."

These types of thematic albums allow artists like Adele to form personal connections with their audiences, says Brian Fauteux, an associate professor of popular music and media studies at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

"There's something about the way her songwriting and singing come together to tap into these universal feelings, emotions and experiences," said Fauteux.

"It allows fans to follow along with her career. She's aging at the same time as [her] fan base."

19 also won Adele Grammys for best new artist and best female pop vocal performance in 2009. She ended her first world tour, An Evening with Adele, later that year.

2011-12: Adele releases 2nd album and meets now ex-husband

Adele won six Grammys at the 2012 Grammy Awards, becoming the second female artist to win that many awards in a single night, following Beyoncé. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Adele's second album, 21, was released in 2011 and is estimated to have sold nearly 31 million copies worldwide, becoming the best-selling album of the 21st century in the United Kingdom. 

The same year, Adele went on her second tour and met her now ex-husband, British charity entrepreneur Simon Konecki.

The songstress collected more Grammy hardware in 2012, winning all six of the categories in which she was nominated, making her the second female artist to win that many awards in one night. (Following Beyoncé.) After her Grammy success, she revealed her plans to take a break from music. Her son, Angelo, was born later that year.

A major part of Adele's appeal, according to Canadian radio broadcaster and music writer Alan Cross, is that she comes across as "very, very human."

"She wasn't this perfect physical specimen who seemed to have it all," said Cross. "And the things that she's singing about really resonated with individual people. She was almost an everywoman."

LISTEN | Tom Power, host of CBC's Q, talks with Adele about new album and career:

Adele sat down with Tom Power for a Canadian exclusive interview about her personal new album, 30, and how it helped her through one of the most turbulent periods of her life. In this wide-ranging conversation, the British singer-songwriter also opened up about her struggle with fame, parenthood and her close friendship with Drake.

2015-17: 3rd album brings continued success

Adele won five Grammys at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards in 2017. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

Adele re-emerged in the music scene with her hit single Hello in October 2015. She released her third album, 25, in November that year, which became the best-selling album worldwide in 2015.

Her third concert tour, Adele Live 2016, ended the following year after she cancelled her final two performances due to vocal injuries. The singer first suffered from a vocal cord hemorrhage in 2011. 

Despite medical setbacks, Adele won all five of her nominations at the 2017 Grammy Awards. During her acceptance speech for album of the year, she thanked her "husband" for his support, teasing her forthcoming marriage to Konecki.

2018-20: Taking another break

Adele kisses her now ex-husband Simon Konecki at the Grammys in 2017. The two got married in 2018, but announced their separation the following year. ( Christopher Polk/Getty Images)

Adele announced in 2016 that she would take another break from music to look after her then three-year-old son. Two years later, she married Konecki. But the singer later filed for divorce in 2019.

Their separation would become the focus of Adele's upcoming album.

In celebration of her 31st birthday in 2019, the singer posted several black-and-white photographs of herself on Instagram and reflected on the previous year. She signed off the Instagram post by teasing new music, writing "30 will be a drum 'n bass record to spite you."

The artist hosted Saturday Night Live in October 2020 and told fans on Instagram that she was going back to her "cave," but that she would be back next year.

2021: New album and new beginnings

On Oct. 15, 2021, Adele released her first single in nearly six years, Easy On Me, which delves into her decision to end her marriage with Konecki. The song is featured in her latest album, 30, which releases Friday.

The album has already received praise from music critics. Rolling Stone magazine said 30 is Adele's "toughest, most powerful album," while Vulture called the record Adele's best work, writing: "This is the music she should've been making all along."

Adele's new studio album, 30, delves into her decision to end her marriage. (CBC)

"It's the record where she accounts for her divorce and how that is affecting her relationship with her son," said Mikael Wood, a pop music critic with the Los Angeles Times.

"It's key to why fans feel so warmly about her, because I think that she's a songwriter and a singer that makes listeners feel like she's articulating their own complicated emotional experiences."

Wood says 30 contains heavier subject matter than some of Adele's previous albums, but that her powerhouse vocals and emotionally charged lyricism will provide fans with the same listening experience they have come to love from Adele. 

"There's no doubt that this record will be a smash," said Wood. "If you love Adele, you're going to love this record."

Cross says Adele has always had an innate ability to write and produce good music, but that the success of her album will depend on whether she has been able to grow with her audience.

"Her fan base has become much more diversified, depending on where their life has taken them," said Cross.

"Can she continue to maintain a relationship with an audience that has grown older?"

  • Watch Adele's only Canadian interview with Q host Tom Power on The National on Sunday.


Jessica Singer was a 2021 Joan Donaldson Scholar and graduate of Western's Master of Media in Journalism and Communication program. You can reach her at jessica.singer@cbc.ca


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