SEVERAL SONGS HAD COME CLOSE.
Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Elton John's "Candle in the Wind 1997." Alicia Keys' "Fallin' " - all stark piano ballads, among others, that led the Billboard Hot 100 from its 1958 inception through the 2000s. But, up to that point, no song had ruled featuring only a voice backed by piano.
On Sept. 17, 2011, more than 53 years into the Hot 100's history, such a song led at last: Adele's "Someone Like You," which sports only her vocals and the piano playing of Dan Wilson. Wilson also co-wrote and co-produced the ballad, which Adele, then 23, had begun writing herself - on an acoustic guitar. Clearly needing no extra sonic distractions, the intimate lost-love song would top the chart for five weeks and along with two other No. 1s - "Rolling in the Deep" and "Set Fire to the Rain" - propel parent album 21 to sales of 11.7 million in the U.S, according to Nielsen Music. It's the best-selling album of the 2010s and the 10th-best-selling set since Nielsen began tracking sales in 1991.
The success of Adele's historic No. 1, which also won her the best pop solo performance Grammy Award in 2012, contributed to her rise to superstardom. Follow-up album 25 has sold 8.9 million copies in the U.S. since its November 2015 release; it arrived with a record with 3.4 million sold in its first week.
"I wanted to write a song that would be my song," an emotional Adele told the audience at New York's Radio City Music Hall on Nov. 17, 2015, just before singing "Someone." (The concert aired on NBC on Dec. 14 as Adele Live in New York City.) "I wanted to write something that would last forever. Whether or not it will, I don't know. But, it's definitely my song."