"Someone," on the other hand, zoomed to No. 1 thanks to buzz generated by Adele's MTV Video Music Awards performance on Aug. 28. The song, her second No. 1, was released to digital retailers on Feb. 22 as a track on her XL/Columbia "21" album, which arrived the same day.
"Someone" sold 275,000 downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan, in the week ending Sept. 4 (up 191%). Its huge sales increase came courtesy of the song's water cooler-worthy performance on the most-watched VMAs in history. On the show, Adele sang the heartbreaking ballad on a darkened stage, accompanied by a sparse piano.
MTV VMA Ratings: Biggest Audience Ever
"Adele's all about the music," Columbia senior VP of sales Steve Kennedy says. "She and her manager, Jonathan Dickins, wanted to get across in the VMA performance that the music was more important than anything else."
"With all the bombastic theatrics going on that night," Kennedy continues, "we felt that her very simple set would completely stand out [against] everything else."
MTV executive VP of music and talent Amy Doyle echoes Kennedy's thoughts. "Adele is one of those rare artists that can command a stage with just the power of her voice and subtle nuances of her vocals. 'Someone Like You' is timeless and we're proud that we could provide her with the world's largest stage to introduce the song to a global audience."
The staging of Adele's VMA performance -- and its impact - recalls her BRIT Awards turn on Feb. 15. On the U.K.'s equivalent of the Grammy Awards, she sang "Someone" in a similar setting, and it immediately caused a huge surge on the official U.K. charts. The next week, "Someone" vaulted 47-1 on the singles tally while "Rolling in the Deep," the album's first single, moved 5-4 the same week.
Adele Ties Beatles Record on U.K. Charts
Meanwhile, on the U.K. albums chart that week, "21" held at No. 1 for a fourth frame and its predecessor, "19," climbed 6-4. With those stats, she became the first living act since the Beatles in January 1964 to have two titles simultaneously in the top five on both the U.K. singles and albums charts.
The No. 1 Hot 100 triumph of "Someone" follows a seven-week run at the top by the lead single from "21," the multiformat smash "Rolling in the Deep." Earlier this year, when it debuted on the Latin Songs chart, it became the most widely crossed-over song of the past 25 years. The Latin tally was the record 12th Nielsen BDS-based Billboard airplay chart on which "Rolling" appeared.
"Rolling in the Deep' broke down a lot of doors with regards to multiformat play," Kennedy says. "'Someone Like You' is about to crash through them all again."
"Rolling" is currently the top-selling song of the year in the United States, with 5 million sold. Adele's "21" is also the year's biggest album, with 3.3 million.
Columbia expects that "21" will continue to sell at a fast clip, projecting that the album could shift a total of 4.5 million by the end of the year and between 5 million and 6 million by March 2012. The latter sum would include whatever sales bump the singer will likely receive from the Feb. 12 Grammy Awards -- where Adele seems a lock to take home at least a few trophies.