Virtually all of the album's lyrics refer to a single breakup Adele experienced between "19" and "21," often in disarming detail, as in the disc's hushed closer, "Someone Like You": "I heard that you're settled down/That you found a girl and you're married now," she sings, "I heard that your dreams came true/Guess she gave you things I wouldn't give to you."
"We didn't try to make it open-ended so it could apply to 'anybody,' " says that song's co-writer/producer, former Semisonic frontman Dan Wilson. "We tried to make it as personal as possible." He and Adele wrote together after being hooked up by Rubin, who has enlisted Wilson's services on other projects by
In October the label took Adele to Minneapolis, where she performed for Target execs; according to Greer, the retailer is slated to sell a two-CD version of "21" that contains several live tracks, including a cover of Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now" that Adele and Darius Rucker performed on CMT's recent "Artists of the Year" special. The singer also performed Oct. 26 for an invite-only tastemaker crowd at Los Angeles' Largo.
The result of that advance work is a filled-up February: Adele is scheduled to appear Feb. 18 on "Today," Feb. 21 on "Late Show With David Letterman," Feb. 24 on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" and Feb. 28 on CBS' "The Early Show." Additionally, Greer says, "Rolling in the Deep" figures prominently in a scene in "I Am Number Four," a Michael Bay-produced sci-fi film due in theaters Feb. 18.
In the digital realm, Columbia senior VP of digital marketing Kathy Baker says Perez Hilton has mentioned Adele 10 times in the last three months. "No one can deny the reach he has," Baker says. "If someone doesn't know who Adele is, those multiple impressions could alter that." Adele's official site carried a live webcast of an acoustic concert the singer performed Jan. 24 at London's Tabernacle, and beginning Feb. 1, Baker says, the site will host a "21 Days of Adele" promotion with exclusive daily content including a live chat and a video of Adele explaining the inspiration for an album track. NPR Music is also set to stream "21" the week of Feb. 7 as part of its First Listen series.
Adele doesn't use Twitter; she says she was late to the social networking service and fears that if she started tweeting now, it would look like she was only doing it to promote her album. ("I also don't want to write, 'Oh, I'm on the toilet -- last night's dinner was really spicy,' " she adds. "That's just gross.") Baker says Columbia created an account for the singer anyway, which the label uses to push followers to Adele's blog.
At radio, "Rolling in the Deep" is shaping up to be a "slam-dunk," says Columbia VP of triple A and public radio promotion Lisa Sonkin, who adds that the tune has begun crossing over to a handful of modern rock stations, such as WFNX Boston. This week "Rolling in the Deep" is No. 2 on Billboard's Triple A chart and No. 26 on Adult Top 40.
"[Playing the song] was a no-brainer for us," says KCRW Santa Monica, Calif., music director Jason Bentley, whose station presented Adele's 2009 Hollywood Bowl show. "She's a core artist for us."
Sonkin says she's utilized Adele's real-life charm in the same way Greer has. "She sat down with Jess Besack at Sirius, who programs Spectrum," Sonkin recalls, "and after their talk, Jess looked at me and said, 'I wanna go out for drinks with her!' That makes a big difference."
The goal here is straightforward: "We want a No. 1 record," Greer says. Still, Barnett is quick to point out that Columbia's dedication to "21" extends far beyond the album's opening frame. He says he hears five singles and envisions working the disc at least through the 2012 Grammys.
To that end, Adele will spend much of 2011 on the road. European dates are scheduled for March and April, while Kirk Sommer, Adele's agent at William Morris Endeavor, says the singer will hit the United States in May and June, playing 1,500- to 3,000-capacity rooms. "We've done some underplays with a view to come back later in the year and play larger rooms," Sommer adds. "She's extremely versatile. On the last campaign she played some key major markets multiple times but made a conscious effort to change the format of the show when she returned."
The singer says she's looking forward to touring again, even if it means reliving on a nightly basis the painful experiences her songs depict. "That's really fucking hard," she says. "Toward the end of touring on '19' there were a couple of shows where I'd be singing 'Make You Feel My Love' and I'd just have to start thinking of Ikea or something." She laughs. "You have to switch off sometimes -- otherwise it's completely emotionally draining.
"Anything I find difficult, though, is completely thrown in the bin when I see how people respond to my music," she adds. "I love it when a wife drags her husband to a show and he's standing there like a lemon. You spend the whole night trying to win him over, and by the end he's kissing his wife. That's amazing."