‘30’ is Adele’s Worst-Selling Album But Still 2021’s Biggest Hit

When is a raven like a writing desk?

Videos by American Songwriter

Okay, fine. That riddle has no meaning. But here’s another one that does: when is a star’s worst-selling album still the year’s biggest hit? That’s right! It’s Adele’s latest, 30, which is on pace to be the legendary artist’s worst-selling LP (for a variety of factors) and yet still the biggest in 2021.

The 33-year-old British-born pop star finished 2021 as a Top 10 artist on both Spotify and YouTube and her latest LP literally stalled the production of any other vinyl albums. Yet the work is on pace to be her worst-selling LP since her debut (and, some say, maybe ever).

Yet, this isn’t something necessarily to hang on the big-voiced Adele. She is one of the few reasons both CD and vinyl sales are up as of late. Yet, as American Songwriter noted here, music sales—especially when it comes to albums, themselves—are not as strong.

According to Bloomberg, Adele was the only artist to exceed 1 million albums sold last year with 30. That LP sold twice as many copies as any other, despite the fact it was released late in the year in November.

In 2011, the year Adele released her LP, 21, 10 albums sold more than 1 million units, including Lady Gaga, Michael Buble, and rapper Lil Wayne. Yet, over the past few years, only Adele and Taylor Swift have noted above 1 million.

Why? Streaming, of course.

Streaming numbers continue to rise while, at the same time, most artists never leave the limelight. Careers for major artists are comprised more of constant releases—singles, videos, visualizer videos, previews of the previews—rather than a big album release, tour, and then head back into the proverbial “lab” to write and make more.

What this means is that artists are making less money on album sales and, therefore, have to recoup it in tours and live events. Adele, in fact, had to postpone a lucrative residency in Las Vegas due to her staff’s COVID-19 complications. She was set to make millions (and will likely recoup in future months on The Vegas Strip).

Yet, the shrinking sales of albums, in general, remains a concern. Because if Adele and Swift are the only two oceans rising the tides, who knows what that might mean for future recordings, releases, and the business, at large.

Photo: Simon Emmett/Sony

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