I’d say Adele Adkins (better known by her first name) is pretty well known at this point of her young career. While she is only 23 (one year older than me), she is far richer in talent and capital. Her two albums 19 and 21,both based on her age at the time of production inception, have become modern musical staples, and her familiar bluesy contralto is tender and powerful. She was labeled as the number-one predicted breakthrough act in 2008 by the Brit Awards, and they were correct in their assumption. Since then, she has added even more awards to her burgeoning closet.
I mean, 21 spent a total of thirteen weeks at number one on the Billboard 200, the longest an album has held the top position since 1998. It also spent 11 consecutive weeks at number one in the UK, surpassing Madonna as the longest ever by a female solo artist on the UK albums chart. The album has also broken the record for the most UK digital downloads. Pretty much what I’m trying to say is that her overflowing talent has leaked into the mainstream and the broad listening population has ate it up like my friends and I gormandized at an all-you-can-eat sushi joint last night.
“Someone Like You” is the most simple song on our countdown. It is also the most successful. Like I have said many times, complexity does not always lead to success. This is especially true when you want to crack into the mainstream. You want to “dumb down” songs. I’m not implying here that the whole of the mainstream listening population is slow, but rather I am attempting to convey that it is significantly easier to get into a song with less elements. I’d argue though, that despite its musical simplicity, “Someone Like You” is actually a complex, emotional piece and Adele’s passionate voice shines.
What’s so simple about this song is also what’s so complex. The song is piano and Adele. It was actually co-written and co-produced by Dan Wilson of Semisonic fame (remember “Closing Time”). There is some vocal layering but that’s it for effects. The black and white video echoes the candor of the piece. In “Someone Like You” Adele sings of a lost love and lyrically envisions this ex happy in the future with a wife that is not her and children that are not hers. The relationship with this ex lasted 18 months and Adele thought it would end in marriage – which it clearly did not. Worst of all, the ex got engaged not long after. She is clearly bothered by these thoughts and her vexation shows through her vocal performance, which can best be described as sincere with hints of consternation, preoccupation, fearfulness, and sadness. She is able to tug on these emotions effortlessly.
The song has been modestly successful thus far. It just has been certified platinum in the UK and 3x platinum in the US (3 million copies sold). I’ll admit that there is one thing I dislike about the song. It is played CONSTANTLY. Other than that, it totally deserves its number four spot.