Grammys flashback: 10 years ago Adele crushed the competition with ’21,’ and she hasn’t lost since

A perfect mixture of soul and pop, Adele’s “21” became a signature album for the 21st century. Along with its massive sales figures and universal acclaim, “21” picked up many awards, and the Grammys were no different. At the 2012 Grammy Awards she took home six trophies, sweeping all of her categories and tying Beyonce‘s record as the most awarded woman in one night. That night Adele entered the Grammys history books and the Grammy darling was officially born.

Adele was no stranger to success before “21,” both in awards and in commercial achievements. “19,” her debut album, was a sleeper hit and featured the breakthrough single “Chasing Pavements.” Then her first “SNL” appearance helped catapult her into fame, sending both the song and album up the charts. She eventually won two Grammys, including Best New Artist. So when “21” came around, there were a lot of expectations, even though Adele still wasn’t really a household name, per se.

“21’s” lead single “Rolling in the Deep” was released in November 2010. Slowly but surely it climbed the Billboard charts and by the time “21” came out the following February, it was a hit. It eventually peaked atop the Billboard Hot 100 and became the number-one song of 2011, while “21” became the number-one album of that year. By the time Grammy talk came around, everyone expected Adele’s massive era to be a big player, especially with such a universally appealing sound.

“21’s” year was not weak when it came to Grammy contenders. Nominated alongside Adele was Bruno Mars, whose debut “Doo Wops and Hooligans” had become a massive sleeper hit, producing multiple smash hit singles; Mars eventually won that night for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for “Just the Way You Are.” Two pop divas were also in contention, as Rihanna‘s “Loud” and Lady Gaga‘s “Born This Way” both earned noms. While Gaga ultimately went home empty-handed, Rihanna earned two Grammys for her featured work on Kanye West‘s “All of the Lights.” To round things out, there were the Foo Fighters, who were one of the night’s biggest winners with “Wasting Light,” taking home five awards including a clean sweep of the rock field (as per usual).

While all of these albums were big hits, and a couple might have had a genuine shot any other year, it was still Adele’s to lose in every category. Every magazine from Paste to Rolling Stone was predicting Adele to sweep, and they were right. In the end, the rise of Adele meant that music was not only very much alive, but that it was stronger than ever. “21” felt like music’s savior at a time of diminishing sales, so why would the music industry not love it?

The fact that it was an artist like Adele to revive the industry was an added bonus. As Steve Knopper of Rolling Stone put it, “[Adele had] that back-to-basics, counter-counter-cultural ‘after so many years of Britney, Katy and Gaga we’re finally back to real music’ thing that stalwart Grammy voters love.” To voters, Adele meant change, good change, and the type of change that prioritized art over spectacle.

“21” remains one of the bestselling albums of all time. It is the top Billboard 200 album ever, and Adele has never lost a Grammy since, making her the biggest Grammy darling in the industry right now. This year her darling status will be yet again tested with “30,” her latest record that, admittedly, didn’t feel as ubiquitous as its two predecessors. Still, Adele is Adele, so don’t be surprised to see her holding a handful of Grammys again … again.

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