(Columbia)
While the topic of her divorce is all-consuming, the singer seems to be pushing gently at the boundaries of what people expect of her

There is a sense in which 2021’s biggest single – 84.9m streams in a week on one platform alone; straight to No 1 in 25 countries; a song that received more first-week plays on US radio than any other song ever – wasn’t so much a comeback as an act of global reassurance. The world may recently have lurched from one unimaginable crisis to another, but Adele’s Easy on Me brought with it the message that at least one thing hasn’t changed: Adele Adkins is still heartbroken and belting it out over a gentle piano and tasteful orchestration.

Romantic despair became her global brand from the moment she stopped the show at the 2011 Brit awards with her tearful performance of Someone Like You. It catapulted her from the massed ranks of soul-influenced singers filling a gap created by Amy Winehouse’s inability to follow up Back to Black, to mind-boggling levels of success. There’s always the chance that millions of people might flock to an upbeat Adele album that depicts her full of the joys of spring, but clearly she wasn’t taking any chances last time around: for want of new unhappiness, 2015’s 25 returned to the same failed relationships that inspired its record-breaking predecessor 21. No matter – it sold 22m copies.

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