Every Adele single ranked from worst to best, including Easy On Me
Get the tissues because we’re weeping
Over the weekend, whilst we rotted away hungover eating a fat Chinese watching Strictly, Adele smashed world records. Her new single Easy On Me, her first new music in six years, arrived on Friday and began a cultural moment in time. When Adele returns, the world stops. I’ll never forget the way it felt in 2015 during an X Factor ad break when Adele Adkins dropped a Hello teaser. A simple black screen, the opening lyrics and that unmistakable moment. The pop culture landscape was about to have its next huge moment. Easy On Me, with its mothership album 30 getting its Batmanesque projections on historical landmarks and Taylor Swift inadvertently informing of its release date when she hurriedly moved forward her record so to not compete against the Adele juggernaut sales wise, is more of the same. In its first day, it broke Spotify records for the most streams in 24 hours (over 24 million). She’s back. And here are all 15 iconic Adele singles ranked (with great difficulty) from worst to best.
15. Make You Feel My Love
The final single from Adele’s debut album 19 is a Bob Dylan cover that goes exactly where you think it’s going to go: straight into the Glee club with Rachel Berry on lead vocals. It sounds gorgeous, of course it does. It’s Adele! But an artist like Adele shouldn’t bother with covers because her songs are so personal. You feel her stories when she sings, but Make You Feel My Love is not her story to sing and it gives the song a disconnect that can’t stack up against her other singles.
14. Water Under The Bridge
25’s final single is permeated with a subdued electro beat and a choir backing up Adele’s signature pipes. It’s a make or break song about a relationship that’s at its crescendo – it either continues full throttle or stops in its tracks. But Water Under The Bridge never feels like it fully takes flight. It’s one of her few songs that borders on the side of generic.
13. When We Were Young
When We Were Young is hard not to like. It’s got that nostalgic feel that permeates through it all, it’s a song you hear for the first time but feel like you’ve known it a lifetime. The chorus especially is one of the most warming melodies Adele has ever penned. The biggest drawback of When We Were Young is the lyrical content, which pales in comparison to the other Adele heavy hitter singles ranked higher.
12. Turning Tables
From here on out, how you’d get Adele singles ranked is completely a matter of opinion. There’s barely a hair between them – the standard solid and unwavering. I’m sure Turning Tables is a top five Adele single for many, and there’ll be furore that it isn’t in mine. But I love Turning Tables – I love its cinematic, swirling piano. I love its spiralling vocals – but what I don’t love is how much this song has had a tiresome life as the go-to “tension instrumental” on literally any and all Cowell fronted reality competition show. You know what I mean. Like when they’re waiting at bootcamp to find out if they’re through to judges houses. That vibe.
11. Chasing Pavements
Adele’s breakthrough came in the form of Chasing Pavements, a big soul number fresh from Brit school that the Brit Awards clamber desperately to now nominate anyone and everyone who they think may be the next Adele. Every time a tepid ballad from Emeli Sande or Celeste gets a Brit nomination, you can thank Chasing Pavements for being the blueprint. It’s a vehicle for how huge and instantly recognisable Adele’s vocals are. A starmaking song for good reason.
10. Cold Shoulder
The Mark Ronson produced banger sits comfortably as one of Adele’s notable uptempo bops. It’s got that 2008 era Ronson sound down to a tee that you’ll be more than familiar with if you’ve heard even a crumb of an Amy Winehouse song. It’s a really fun sound for Adele and one that she’d really suit doing a full record of. The strings add a cinematic touch to the groove that are such a vibe. Bassment Jaxx’s remix is excellent, too.
9. Rumour Has It
It’s truly a testament to how excellent Adele and her singles discography is that a song as full of life as Rumour Has It is isn’t shooting straight in at the top ranked spot. It’s bombastic, grimy, full of attitude and stands out in a sea of mostly ballads as a song that feels completely unapologetic in its man-theft. So much bluesy goodness in one track.
8. Send My Love (To Your New Lover)
Adele goes full Max Martin assisted mega pop with Send My Love (To Your New Lover), the third single from 25 that sounds like nothing she’d ever done before or has done since. I can imagine it borders on the Marmite side of things in terms of popularity, but as someone who lives and breathes pop music, Send My Love is an Adele song I can stream at almost any time regardless of mood. Her vocals so bouncy and full of life in the chorus in a carefree way we hardly ever get treated to.
Adele’s inevitable Bond theme is one that doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but never tries to. It instead focuses on making the wheel the best damn wheel that has ever wheeled, and the result is one of the best James Bond themes in the history of the franchise. And an excellent entry to the Adele canon in its own right. This is the kind of sound Adele’s vocals exist for: Ominous yet warm, filled with danger and soul.
6. Easy On Me
Adele’s latest effort is an old friend. It’s that first hug you had with your loved one who you hadn’t seen for two years because of the pandemic. It’s a listen that feels like a reconciliation, and for a lead single of a new era after six years that is both its biggest strength and its biggest weakness. I’d have loved Easy On Me to not play it so safe, to have kept me guessing. But there’s time for that to come. What matters is how often me and, as the statistics show, everybody else in the world have spent the past few days basking in its secure, safe warmth.
5. Set Fire To The Rain
It amuses me that Adele got inspiration for this in classic Adele style: Her lighter wouldn’t work in the rain. Like with so much of her work, Adele made cinematic pop balladry of grandeur that contrasts perfectly to her humble and down to earth persona. Set Fire To The Rain is huge in all of what it does – instrumentally massive (some argue overproduced), vocally titanic and tonally apocalyptic. Its drama is irresistible. Adele makes all breakups feel like the apocalypse.
In the clutches of a lesser artist, Hello would feel gimmicky. After one of the biggest and most commercially successful eras in music, well, ever with 21, Adele returned with Hello. She literally returned after going off grid with a hello. It was meticulously well done marketing for the new era, and not many could pull off the gimmick. But, my god, Hello is excellent. It’s when that choir come in on the chorus with the gorgeous harmony on “I’m sorry for breaking your heart” and “It clearly doesn’t tear you apart anymore”. It’s a once in a millenia musical goosebumps moment. It’s so special, and if it’s not ranked high amongst your list of Adele singles give your head a wobble.
Hello and the 25 were Adele’s first era when streaming took over fully as the main way we consume music, and this song was a cultural phenomenon that smashed any and all records. And not just because it was Adele, but because behind all the accolades and records it is a bloody excellent ballad.
3. Someone Like You
When Adele performed Someone Like You at the Brits, the world stopped. That’s not an exaggeration. It’s a song so big and important to the last 10 years it’s hard to imagine the world of music and your own life without it. It’s the kind of break up song that makes you feel like the main character no matter how hard you try to not let it. You could have never in your life have had your heart broken and still feel like you’re picking up the pieces from it shattering as soon as she opens her mouth. Nobody other than Adele could have written a song that resonates with so many globally like this and sing it with such timeless grace. It’s for the history books.
2. Hometown Glory
There is a raw quality to Hometown Glory that could only have been written by Adele’s point of view. Its origins are as famous as the song itself: 16 year old Adele wrote it as an ode to West Norwood after an argument in which her mum tried to persuade her to move to Liverpool for uni (as a Liverpool graduate, can confirm she sorely missed out on a great time). The song flew under the radar until it was featured in Skins (welcome to 2008!) and the rest is history. Artists who’ve been in the songwriting business for 50 years could only dream to capture the kind of feeling and talent 16 year old Adele bashed out in 10 minutes. It’s SO good, and only one from the catalogue of Adele singles has managed to be ranked higher.
1. Rolling In The Deep
Sometimes it’s hard to think about how great a song is before it becomes something sort of too big to comprehend. Rolling In The Deep is a song like Winehouse and Ronson’s Valerie that has a new life now in the tedious karaoke jukebox go-tos, something middle aged women like to belt out after a few proseccos. I’m sure Adele herself loves that, with her often firmly placing herself snugly in the Hun camp. But with all the cover versions and karaoke butcherings, it’s easy to forget just how incredible a song Rolling In The Deep actually is. It’s the best selling digital single of ALL TIME for a reason.
The pounding drums. The building tension. The earth-shattering vocal performance. It’s a storming song like no other, and one that took Adele from a celebrated hometown hero to an international superstar. The rest is quite literally history.