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Adele’s 10 Best Songs

10 great tracks from one of the world's best-selling artists

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Adele Best Songs
Illustration by Steven Fiche

    This article originally ran in 2021, but we’re bringing it back around for Adele’s birthday on Thursday (May 5th).


    It’s sometimes surprising to remember just how long Adele has been part of the pop culture conversation. Her breakout, “Hometown Glory,” was released when she was only nineteen years old, and it’s a track the singer-songwriter penned at just sixteen.

    Since then, Adele has obliterated records to the tune of fifteen Grammy awards across three full-length studio albums. Her crossover appeal is the result of a unique mix of gifted vocals, vulnerable songwriting, and a personality overflowing with sharp wit.

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    It’s been over five years now since Adele released new music — a curious stint as host of Saturday Night Live in 2020 was more of an opportunity for the vocalist to try her hand at comedy and acting than it was a hint of a musical comeback — but finally, new tunes from Adele are on the horizon after all.

    As we prepare ourselves for getting in our feels tomorrow (October 15th) when Adele makes her musical comeback with “Easy on Me,” (and next month when she unleashes her new album 30), we’ve rounded up ten of our favorite Adele songs and organized them into a playlist.

    — Mary Siroky
    Contributing Editor


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    10. “Rumor Has It”

    The second track on 21 flips the script a bit: whereas Adele is most known for heartbreak songs, especially on the massive (and largely devastating) 21 LP, this track is a glimmer of hope. It’s more confident, even sarcastic in places, conjuring small-town drama and pervasive gossip. “Bless your soul, you’ve got your head in the clouds/ You made a fool out of me and, boy, you’re bringin’ me down,” she says. Throughout the story she spins, she never confirms whether or not she started the titular rumor herself, or even if she even wants the subject of the song back — it’s up to the listener to write the ending. — M.S.

    09. “Chasing Pavements”

    Adele’s second single ever was the bold and beautiful “Chasing Pavements,” which brought her music to thousands of new listeners. Even though she was only nineteen years old when it was recorded, Adele sings with the wisdom and precision that singers twice her age can’t pull off. Adele soars on “Chasing Pavements,” but the track is moody, yearning, and full of tension.

    And rather than leaning fully into the jazz-adjacent, coffeehouse-core that was unavoidable in the late 2000s, she brings the song to a massive, anthemic climax in each chorus, demonstrating that she’s more than just a singer — she is a true artist. — Paolo Ragusa

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    08. “When We Were Young”

    Frankly, only Adele could make looking back from the old age of 25 as deeply nostalgic and tender as she does on “When We Were Young.” Addressing a long-lost loved one, the singer faces her fear of getting older head-on by capturing the sentimentality of youth in a warm amber glow. Over soothing piano chords and the steady muffled beat of a tambourine, Adele paints a picture that both looks like a movie and sounds like a song, and will have you reaching for your camera to catch the people you love in the perfect light before the perfect moment passes. — Glenn Rowley

    07. “Set Fire to the Rain”

    Compared to most of the other tracks on this list, “Set Fire to the Rain” has a pretty standard pop structure. In fact, there’s very little in the first minute that makes it stand out as an all-time great tune. But, boy, when that bridge comes in and you can feel Adele building herself up for that surge of a wail on the hook, you know you’re about to be taken on a journey. Yeah, it’s kind of balladry at its most melodramatic, but that knockout chorus just is undeniable. — Ben Kaye

    06. “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)”

    By the time 25 rolled around, Adele had the industry at her feet. Enter Max Martin, Swedish pop music expert, and the bubblier “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” was born with a bit of help from songwriter and producer Shellback. In an interview with the New York Times, Adele shared that she’d had the song’s signature bass guitar line in her pocket since she was fifteen years old. It found its home a decade later in the bouncy track — and as one of the more straightforward pop offerings in Adele’s catalogue, it’s a refreshing listen. — M.S.

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