Billboard is celebrating the 2010s with essays on the 100 songs that we feel most define the decade that was -- the songs that both shaped and reflected the music and culture of the period -- with help telling their stories from some of the artists, behind-the-scenes collaborators and industry insiders involved.
In the early 2010s, British soul-pop wasn't exactly proven catnip for the charts. But much like an unexpected smash sophomore album from another U.K. soul singer just four years earlier, Adele's 21 became the game-changing, trend-defying smash hit LP no one saw coming.
That storm was preceded by a lightning bolt of a lead single called "Rolling In the Deep." Composed by Adele with Paul Epworth (not long after his work on Florence + the Machine's debut) in a single afternoon, the strummy soul stomper is a tell-off anthem to a former lover that's empowering while fragile at the same time. A line like "we could have had it all" reads confident on paper, but on wax, there's no sneer; if anything, her voice is drenched in pain and regret.