Adele’s age has made naming her albums easy. She’s used it to mark the period of her life covered on each of her studio LPs: 2008’s 19, 2011’s 21 and 2015’s 25.
Today (May 5), Adele turns 32, and we’re hoping she’s hard at work at her next effort: perhaps it’ll be titled 30?
To celebrate the birthday of our favorite age-themed singer, we ranked every Adele song from 19 to 25, including bonus tracks but excluding live cuts and collaborations where she wasn’t the lead artist. And befitting a mega-selling singer who has won 15 Grammys (out of 18 nominations), the quality quotient is pretty high.
45. “Love In The Dark”
Not even the mighty Adele can rescue the maudlin overdrive of this 25 ballad. It tugs on all the heartstrings (cue the violins) but fails to really strike a chord.
44. “Now and Then”
Adele engages in some wistful reflection on this 19 bonus track, but lacking a certain magnetism, it’s easy to tell why this song didn’t make the cut for the main affair.
43. “Can’t Let Go”
Linda Perry — who’s worked with P!nk and Christina Aguilera — co-wrote and produced this 25 bonus track, which reveals softer, more supple dimensions of Adele’s voice. In fact, she almost sounds a bit unrecognizable at times.
42. “Why Do You Love Me”
Although this 25 bonus track feels a bit random — but hey, that why it’s a bonus track – it’s a fun throwback with its righteous soul and ’60s girl group bounce.
41. “First Love”
The tinkling keys are a little cutesy for Adele, who seems to be holding back from tearing right through them. Still, although she was mature beyond her years, this sounds pretty appropriate for 19, the album and the age she actually was.
40. “I Found A Boy”
There is a stripped-down rawness on this 21 bonus track that roughs up the lushness heard on the standard album. As produced by Rick Rubin, this original almost takes Adele into rootsy territory.
39. “Hiding My Heart”
Adele’s contribution to the 2017 tribute album Cover Stories: Brandi Carlile Celebrates 10 Years of The Story adds her own special soul to the fine source material of this song.
38. “Sweetest Devotion”
Extolling the joys of motherhood may not be Adele’s sweet spot. But you can hardly blame the young mom for dedicating the swaying 25 closer to her son Angelo, now 5, who was probably already pretty spoiled from the lullabies he got.
37. “If It Hadn’t Been For Love”
The b-side to “Rolling in the Deep” covers bluegrass band the SteelDrivers with this song co-written by their former lead singer Chris Stapleton. With Adele getting gritty, this makes you want to hear her do a duet with Stapleton.
36. “Million Years Ago”
It’s a bit strange to hear a woman who was around 25 at the time of this song’s writing singing about “a million years ago” like she’s middle aged. But while the lyric is a tough sell — no matter how far Adele feels removed from her pre-stardom self — she still delivers a performance that is both elegant and elegiac.
35. “That’s It, I Quit, I’m Movin’ On”
Adele takes a bluesy stroll with this Sam Cooke cover — a 19 bonus track — that she effortlessly turns into her own kind of kiss-off.
34. “Lay Me Down”
Taking it to church on this bonus track more than she does at any point on the standard 25 album, Adele sings as if sex could be her very salvation. But she lets her man know “I’m not gonna do it standing up.”
Adele deconstructs the 1989 Cure classic and turns it into a Latin-tinged torch song. It’s a little sleepy compared to the rest of 21, but it allows Adele to show her sultry side with a velvety voice that’s burnt around the edges.
Feeling a bit tossed off, this is not as fully realized as most of the tunes on 19. But while it’s definitely a case where the singer is better than the song, Adele always does fed-up well.
31. “Painting Pictures”
This 19 bonus track begins with some moody blues and then packs a revved-up rock wallop, with Adele’s brushstrokes adding rich detail to it all.
30. “Many Shades of Black”
For the release of this single from 2008’s Consolers of the Lonely, the Raconteurs got a young Adele to sing lead on a version of the song that, of course, tops the original.
29. “He Won’t Go”
It says a lot about the strength of 21 that this is one of that album’s weakest tracks. Harking back to the jazzier moments of 19, it’s actually a nice change-up from all the big ballads on 21, as Adele plays it with an understated cool.
This is a perfectly good pop song, produced and co-written by hitmaker Greg Kurstin (P!nk, Kelly Clarkson). But the fourth single from 25 doesn’t feel so much like an Adele song but a solid vehicle for any number of divas. Still, Adele elevates whatever she touches.
As far as Adele’s collaborations with Ryan Tedder go, “Remedy” is no “Rumour Has It” or even “Turning Tables,” but after digging into all those emotional wounds on 21, it’s refreshing to hear her coming from a healing place on this comforting 25 ballad.
26. “River Lea”
Produced and co-written by Danger Mouse, “River Lea” is less conventional than Adele’s 25 tracks with Greg Kurstin, Bruno Mars, and Max Martin and Shellback. Taking its title from the London river, this gospel-blues meditation finds Adele dipping into more experimental waters.
25. “Crazy For You”
Although it’s not a cover, you can hear yearning shades of the similarly named Patsy Cline classic on this 19 deep cut. Adele’s bluesy vocal, though, is more Etta James, directly aimed at the object of her obsession.
Adele channels Shirley Bassey on the theme song from the 2012 James Bond film Skyfall. Although it’s not in the league of “Goldfinger” or “Diamonds Are Forever,” it still won the Oscar because Adele — swooping and scaling with the greatest of ease — was bigger than 007 at that point.
23. “I’ll Be Waiting”
This horned-up blast is one of two 21 tracks produced by Paul Epworth (the other being a little ditty called “Rolling in the Deep”). When Adele professes that “I see my future in you” over the swaggering, hip-swiveling groove, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would keep her waiting.
22. “Take It All”
This three-hankie ballad is the only 21 song co-written by Francis “Eg” White, who had co-penned “Chasing Pavements” and two others on 19. Adele sounds more defeated here than she does at any other point on 21 — and that says a lot given all the heartbreak in the mix. Bonus points for that piano solo by Neil Cowley, making like Elton John.
21. “Don’t You Remember”
While “Rolling in the Deep” and “Rumour Has It” were bitter revenge songs that came before it on 21, this breakup ballad — one of three 21 songs co-written by Semisonic’s Dan Wilson — is all deep longing and heartfelt regret, with Adele owning up to her own mistakes.
20. “Cold Shoulder”
Against a shuffling hip-hop beat produced by Mark Ronson — who had previously worked with Amy Winehouse on Back to Black — Adele cuts loose with a deceptively playful sassiness that lets you know that she’s not falling for this guy’s game.
Like “Water Under the Bridge,” another one of her uptempo tracks, “Send My Love” isn’t quintessential Adele. But as produced and co-written by Max Martin and Shellback (the team behind hits for everyone from Taylor Swift to Justin Timberlake) the third 25 single is better and catchier all around, with a stronger lyric and melody that took it all the way to No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100.
18. “My Same”
Giving one of her sexiest performances on this jazzy 19 number, Adele flaunts a feline flirtatiousness, slinking and strutting around the finger-snapping groove. Playing with the phrasing and the words, she is in full siren mode here. And it’s irresistible.
17. “One And Only”
While there is something sinister to the gospel heard in “Rolling in the Deep,” there is nothing but pure steeple-raising spirit on this towering 21 tune (one of four Rick Rubin-produced cuts on that LP). That bridge where the choir comes in is a thank-you-Jesus revelation.
16. “Turning Tables”
Co-written by Ryan Tedder but produced by Jim Abbiss — who also worked on much of 19 — this 21 ballad is built around lilting piano but swells with a large string section and a dramatic defiance that lets the manipulator in question know that “I won’t let you close enough to hurt me.”
15. “Melt My Heart To Stone”
You can tell from the sweeping soul of this 19 nugget just how much Adele probably listened to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. With its strains of old-school R&B, you could imagine this being sung on a Philly street corner back in the day… minus the decidedly British accent.
14. “I Miss You”
It’s all about those drums, that “In the Air Tonight” wallop that pounds down deep in your soul. But whereas Phil Collins saved his secret weapon until the later stage of his 1981 hit, Adele and “Rolling in the Deep” producer Paul Epworth bring the boom right away. The haunting atmospherics linger long after the six minutes are over.
The first track off of Adele’s first LP makes for the perfect 19 introduction by putting that magnificent voice smack up front against a spare, gentle guitar. It’s almost as if she’s cooing right in your ear with a beautiful, open-hearted vocal that sends you into a romantic reverie.
12. “Best For Last”
On this freeform jam — one of five 19 tunes that she wrote solo — Adele and that bass (which she plays herself) engage in what almost sounds like a cool improv. The shifting rhythms and tempos allow the singer to show off a jazzy flow that bobs and weaves around the beat.
11. “When We Were Young”
Co-written by singer-songwriter Tobias Jesso Jr. and produced by Ariel Rechtshaid (Haim, Vampire Weekend), the second 25 single is piano-laden reminiscence that gets you all up in your feelings. By the time that bridge kicks in, the misty melancholy will have you longing for “someone I used to know.”
10. “Right As Rain”
Adele has credited her fellow Brit Amy Winehouse with paving the way for her career, and you can really hear the Amy influence on this 19 track. Swinging and shimmying to those retro-’60s keys, Adele is at her jazzy grooviest here, one of the top deep cuts in her catalog.
This 1997 Bob Dylan gem has been covered by everyone from Billy Joel to Garth Brooks, but it’s the Adele version that is probably the definitive one. Displaying the depth of her interpretive skills, she really makes this song — which was certified gold as a 19 single — all her own, convincing you that she truly would “go to the ends of the earth for you.”
8. “All I Ask”
How “All I Ask” was never released as a single from 25 is a great mystery. It was an instant standout from Adele’s third album — the kind of killer ballad that you would imagine Barbra Streisand, Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey would sing if they got Bruno Mars to co-write and co-produce (with the Smeezingtons) for them back in their heyday. Adele is a vocal beast all over it.
7. “Rumour Has It”
Playing like an immediate sequel to “Rolling in the Deep” on 21, this fierce thumper (produced and co-written by Ryan Tedder) is, if anything, darker and more dangerous, whipping some musical voodoo on you — and the man who did Adele wrong. Bonus points for Tedder’s piano flourish at the end.
6. “Set Fire To The Rain”
Adele is a force of nature on the third single from 21, which was co-written and produced by Fraser T. Smith, a fellow Brit who had scored a No. 1 hit with Taio Cruz’s “Break Your Heart.” The driving energy is undeniable, and the imagery (“I set fire to the rain/And I threw us into the flames”) is downright poetic.
5. “Hometown Glory”
For a woman who is just turning 32, Adele sure has done her share of nostalgic songs, and this is easily the best of them. Bringing 19 to a show-stopping close, this tune — which was her debut single in her native U.K. — is an impassioned ode to her South London hometown. The piano ballad possesses a stately grandeur that makes it all the more amazing when the notoriously foul-mouthed Adele spits “we ain’t gonna stand shit.”
Well, let’s just put this out there first: Adele’s “Hello” trumps Lionel Richie’s “Hello” — another No. 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100, back in 1984. It was going to be near impossible for Adele to follow up the success of “Rolling in the Deep,” “Someone Like You” and the rest of 21 with this song, the first single from 25. But somehow she pulled it off with this titanic ballad — co-written and produced by Greg Kurstin — that spent 10 consecutive weeks at the summit and, like “Rolling in the Deep,” also said hello to the record and song of the year Grammys.
3. “Someone Like You”
Adele has made a career out of bravura performances, but her finest on record so far has got to be her Grammy-winning vocal on the second of three No. 1 singles from 21. It’s not just the notes she hits — she pushes so far into the top of her range at the “Don’t forget me, I beg/I’ll remember you said” part of the chorus that she usually reworks it live — but the feelings she nails. Anyone who’s ever pined for the one who got away knows exactly where she’s coming from.
2. “Chasing Pavements”
While it was Adele who declared “I know this is love” on “Chasing Pavements,” it was us who fell hard for her with the superstar’s debut U.S. single. It’s hard to believe that she was only a teenager when she wrote this sophisticated song, the kind that soars to Carole King level. It earned Adele Grammy nominations for record and song of the year, and a win for best female pop vocal performance. She may have been chasing some boy “even if it leads nowhere,” but she found gold here.
1. “Rolling In The Deep”
“We could have had it all,” wails Adele in the chorus of the first single and opening track from 21. But while she got her heart played to the beat, she kind of did end up getting it all: her first No. 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100 (where it reigned for seven weeks), Grammys for record and song of the year, and a career-changing anthem that was the ultimate revenge. Those monster drums. Those spooky background vocals. That out-of-nowhere church clap. This gospel-blues stomper is one of those straight-up classics where you always remember the first time you heard it.