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While her talent and output of incredible music is undeniable, it’s still a little difficult for Adele to comprehend the incredible heights to which her career has soared. “I always feel like this is going to turn out to be a hidden-camera show, and someone is going to send me back to Tottenham,” she told Rolling Stone in 2015. But in the age of the internet, where music sales have dropped off, few musicians have experienced success as real as Adele’s.
It was in 2011 that she became a household name. Her sophomore album 21, named for the age at which she wrote it, flew to No. 1 in over 30 countries. It is the fourth best-selling album of all time in the UK, and it spent 24 weeks at No. 1 in the United States, the most ever for a female solo artist. Despite being released in January of 2011, it accomplished the incredible feat of becoming the world’s best-selling album in both 2011 and 2012. On the strength of singles like “Rolling in the Deep,” “Someone like You” and “Set Fire to the Rain,” Adele brought home six major Grammy awards in 2012.
After four years that included a vocal chord surgery and the release of the instant-classic Bond theme “Skyfall,” Adele finally released 21’s follow-up in 2015. Announced with the release of the single “Hello” in October, 25 brought fans the same hair-raising, heartbreaking ballads of love and loss that first propelled her to superstardom. The album sold a record 3.38 million copies in its first week, and sold nearly four times as many copies as any other album in the United States in 2015.