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Every Adele Song, Ranked

Pour some wine, grab a box of tissues and call your therapist before digging into our ranking of every officially released Adele song

Over just four albums, Adele has built the type of airtight canon other artists spend decades trying to achieve. She launched her career as a heartbroken teenager with 19 and is now in her thirties, digging deep into motherhood, love, regret and, of course, more heartbreak. She has written more modern pop standards than anyone else in her generation, each single becoming an instant classic.

It’s no easy feat choosing what makes for the best Adele song — there’s not a single dud in the bunch. This list includes every officially released song that she’s released as the lead artist, from her four albums and a few live records. We included a number of officially released covers she has done, as well as bonus tracks and rarities (though many are still not on streaming, dedicated fans have uploaded them to YouTube for everyone to enjoy). Only two songs are missing from the list (for now): 30 bonus tracks that are still best (and exclusively) heard on physical deluxe editions of the album.

For now, pour some wine, grab a box of tissues, and call your therapist: Here’s our official ranking of Adele’s songs.

From Rolling Stone US

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“First Love”

With a first love comes first heartbreak, and that’s the all-too-familiar feeling Adele relays on this 19 cut. The track features a bell-like tone, which gives it a tender lullaby sound throughout. On the song, she realizes she needs to move on and fall for someone else in order to properly get over the first love who broke her heart. She’s speaking directly to this person, begging them to stop apologizing and to let her move on in peace. —B.S.

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“Sweetest Devotion”

In theory “Sweetest Devotion,” a carefree lullaby dedicated to Adele’s son, is rather heartwarming. But ultimately the song, which sounds like it could soundtrack a Joshua Tree sound bath, feels like it clashes with 25. On it, Adele’s son, Angelo, lends his vocals to the album’s intro and outro, which, yes, has sentimental value. But for those who are most drawn to Adele songs that bleed heartbreak and regret, this song misses the mark. —I.K.

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“Can’t Let Go”

This 25 bonus track is maybe one of the saddest on the album: She’s given her partner all she could (“heaven on a platter”) only to be left in the cold. She finds it so hard to let go that she left a note in the seam of their coat. It builds up to a big note on the bridge that cuts deeper than a knife. —B.S.

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“He Won’t Go”

What begins as a song about heartbreak evolved into a story about two friends who became Adele’s lifeline, one of which, unbeknownst to Adele, was battling a heroin addiction. Produced by Rick Rubin, “He Won’t Go” shows Adele at her lounge-singing finest thanks to a devastating chorus that gradually builds tension over a funky arrangement. While the vintage soul-inflected number didn’t exactly have single potential, it remains a catchy deep cut. —I.K.

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“Million Years Ago”

“I miss it when life was a party to be thrown,” Adele yearns in a moment of a quarter-life crisis on 25. “But that was a million years ago.” It’s a different kind of heartbreak for the singer who has mourned her fair share of relationships. On the French-inspired guitar ballad “Million Years Ago,” the singer laments her youth and pines for the life she had before stardom. She misses her mom, her friends, her anonymity. But ultimately, a life any different from the one she has is just a fantasy at this point. —I.K.

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“Why Do You Love Me”

A plea for adoration, “Why Do You Love Me” didn’t quite make the cut for 25. “​​I don’t want to put a song on because only I fucking connect with it,” Adele told Rolling Stone. “And ‘Why Do You Love Me,’ I felt like no one else was really connecting with — in terms of my friends and people that I work with. I loved it, but everyone else was just like, ‘eh’ whenever they heard it.” Naturally, it became a bonus track for the singer. Though it has an ethereal, gospel-tinged chorus (“I want you to love me,” she repeatedly insists), it feels much less personal than her other work on 25. —I.K.

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“Best for Last”

Adele dissects some mixed feelings for her ex on this 19 cut. She seems to be both talking herself in and out of love with them: One minute they’re just a temporary fix that’s not good enough for her, and the next she admits to unrequited feelings that she can’t quite shake. —B.S.

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“Need You Now” (with Darius Rucker)

In 2010, the country group Lady A were being honored at the CMT Artists of the Year ceremony. To pay tribute to the group, Adele and Darius Rucker joined focus on a cover of the group’s megahit “Need You Now.” The pair work well together, with Rucker’s grit playing well with Adele’s smooth soul. The performance impressed the song’s original performers so much that lead singer Hillary Scott was moved to tears in the audience. Adele ended up releasing the live take on deluxe editions of 21. —B.S.

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“If It Hadn’t Been for Love”

Adele’s fandom of Chris Stapleton runs deep, going back a full decade at least before they teamed up for the duet version of “Easy on Me.” She covered “If It Hadn’t Been for Love,” originally performed by his band the SteelDrivers, in 2011 for a 21 bonus track and also for her Adele Live tour. Before singing the track at Royal Albert Hall, she noted that the song was about the singer “killing his wife,” a sentiment she related to. “I would certainly kill some of my ex-boyfriends,” she joked. —B.S.

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“Hiding My Heart”

“Hiding My Heart” started as a secret track on Brandi Carlile’s 2007 album, My Story, and ended up being a bonus track on Adele’s 21 a few years later. It’s a match made in heaven, with Adele offering her moving take on falling in love and convincing yourself that it will be over before you know it. Carlile later included Adele’s version on a charity compilation called Cover Stories and praised the British songstress: “She has my respect and admiration…she has the ability to remind us all of our home and our school friends — perhaps these are things when considering a childhood in a refugee camp we simply can’t afford to take for granted.” —B.S.

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“I’ll Be Waiting”

Despite spending the majority of 21 mining the wreckage of a relationship, “I’ll Be Waiting” is ultimately a cathartic, hopeful step forward. On the sunny ‘70s soul-tinged track, Adele focuses on the person she’ll try to be in the future.“I’ll be somebody different,” she implores. “I’ll be better to you.” Even though it’s seemingly aimed at the ex-lover at the center of the record, this track is proof of growth. —I.K.

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“Right as Rain”

From the moment Adele asks “Who wants to be right as rain?” with a smoky lilt, “Right as Rain” evokes the rawness of Amy Winehouse. While the gritty, jazz-tinged track doesn’t flaunt the polished production of her more recent records, the 19 cut flaunts the soulful delivery that has come to be a hallmark of the English singer’s work. But what makes “Right as Rain” so affecting is that it’s the ultimate kiss-off — a self-assured proclamation to end all game-playing exes: “So wipe that dirty smile off/ We won’t be making up.” —I.K.

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“I Can’t Make You Love Me”

Adele called the Bonnie Raitt classic one of her favorite songs before debuting her take on it at iTunes Festival in 2011. The heartbreaker of a ballad fit well into her oeuvre at the time: a weepy meditation on yearning for someone who doesn’t reciprocate your love. Her faithful rendition was included in more set lists, but the iTunes Festival debut was released as a part of the EP version of her set. She would end up charting in the Top 40 in the U.K. with the cover upon its release. —B.S.

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“Can I Get It”

Adele’s paramount knack for crafting ballads creates a safe consistency within her album releases – but it’s always a thrill to find her in a rare pop-girl pocket kicking it up a notch with some of the genre’s biggest hitmakers. Swedish powerhouses Shellback and Max Martin crafted “Send My Love (To Your New Lover),” the big pop moment on 25, and circled back for 30’s “Can I Get It.” The rise and fall in tempo from the horn-backed pre-chorus to the plucky, questioning chorus builds straight into the satisfying faux drop of whistling. Adele’s vocals remain the focus as ever, but never more so on this particular track than at the arrival of the harmonious bridge, where she offers up a follow up question: “When will you run with me?” —L.P.

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“My Same”

Adele and her best friend writer Laura Dockrill have an “opposites attract” type of friendship, which the singer documents on this song. Adele is the more cautious, conservative friend as opposed to the adventurous, provocative Dockrill. Though they have had their ups and downs, the pair remain close. Adele famously spilled news of her fourth album’s imminent release while drunk at Dockrill’s wedding in early 2020. —B.S.

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“Fool That I Am”

Adele first fell in love with the music of Etta James in her teens (”my favorite singer,” she has said of iconic R&B vocalist). Performing “Fool That I Am” in 2009, she called the 1961 ballad “the first song I heard by Etta James that made me want to be a singer.” Her version (released as a B-side in 2008) is a lovingly faithful homage, and it’s astonishing to hear Adele, still not even 20 years old, completely inhabit the song’s sense of depleted desire while making it into a vehicle for her own emotional expression. —J.D.

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“Cold Shoulder”

Long before tracks like “Oh My God,” “Cry Your Heart Out,” and “Can I Get It,” Adele showed how experimental she could get when she wanted to with 19’s “Cold Shoulder.” Produced by Mark Ronson and featuring Jamiroquai bassist Stuart Zender, “Cold Shoulder” is sonically appealing — and radio-friendly — with its throbbing funk and trip-hop soundscape. But the track, which focuses on life post-breakup, definitely lacks the introspection of her most soul-stirring work. —I.K.

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“Strangers by Nature”

Adele opens her fourth album with a classically whimsical track. Inspired by Judy Garland (and Renee Zellweger’s portrayal of the troubled icon in the biopic Judy), the sweeping, cinematic tune pays tribute to the types of standards that aren’t made these days. She worked with Oscar-winning composer Ludwig Göransson on the song, which has her paying tribute to old lovers by bringing “flowers to the cemetery of my heart.” —B.S.

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“I Miss You”

Adele teamed up with Paul Epworth (“Rolling in the Deep,” “Skyfall”) for this steamy slice of R&B. On the song, she celebrates the way her partner makes her feel physically. Those feelings feel the most potent when “the lights go out,” when she misses him the most. But there’s an anxiety beneath the surface, as she realizes they’re “worlds apart” and has her own doubts about the relationship illuminated in the dark as well. —B.S.

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“That’s It, I Quit, I’m Movin’ On”

Adele goes back in time to twist the night away with Sam Cooke, who brings it on home to her. “That’s It, I Quit, I’m Movin’ On” was a 1961 Top 40 hit for Cooke, the soul pioneer who crossed over from gospel. Adele gives it a playfully stripped-down tribute, as a bonus on the expanded 19. She sings over just an acoustic guitar, working herself into a rage because her date showed up with somebody else’s lipstick all over his face. “If I can’t have you the way that I want you / I don’t want you at all” is a presciently Adele-esque lyric. —R.S.

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“I Found a Boy”

Heartache fills 21, but “I Found a Boy” celebrates starting anew. She has a chance meeting her ex where she can successfully resist their charm because there’s someone who makes her feel even happier now. The song made a live appearance while she was touring for 19, making it one of the earliest tracks written for 21 and unclear whether it’s about moving on from the subject of her first or second album, two different exes. —B.S.

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“Painting Pictures”

This rarity was featured on international deluxe editions of 19 and is a true gem worth unearthing. It’s a bit of an unusual track by Adele standards, a Black Keys-esque blues-rock moment that builds into a near full-band rager. It’s a small window into what a world featuring Adele fronting a rock & roll band would sound like, and we’re not at all unhappy about that. Lyrically, the track is an ode to songwriting itself, as she celebrates “filling up my heart with golden stories.” —B.S.

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“Woman Like Me”

When Adele is at her most scathing, she’s an ego-wrecking tornado blowing through town. She reads the recipient of her words to absolute filth and leaves the receipts to back it up in her wake. On “Woman Like Me,” she cuts straight to the point with a simple question carrying with it the swipe of a sharp knife: “Are you crazy?” Adele spends five minutes pulling out example after example of the laziness, insecurity, complacency, and cowardice she’s found in someone who barely knows what to do with themselves, let alone a powerhouse like herself. —L.P.

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“Crazy for You”

While the gritty, bluesy “Crazy for You” touts a simple, stripped-down structure, Adele’s expansive falsetto makes the track about being hopelessly in love feel much more massive than it is. In fact, it’s the unabashed infatuation in Adele’s hazy vocals that makes the cut from 19 so affecting, as they beam over the soft strumming of an acoustic guitar. Adele may be down bad, but she’s too blissed out to care. —I.K.

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“Many Shades of Black”

“Many Shades of Black” is a blues-rock tune by Jack White and Brendan Benson’s band the Raconteurs, who included Adele’s commanding version as a B-side when the song was released as a single. They recorded together in Nashville, right after Adele’s performance at Bonnaroo in 2008. “He was lovely,” Adele said of White. “Even if he slapped me, it would have been cool.” Hearing her let loose in a big rock setting is like walking into a bar and just happening to run into the best singer in the world fronting a killer backing band. —J.D.

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“River Lea”

Adele looked back to her modest roots in London’s Tottenham neighborhood on “River Lea,” comparing her own contradictory soul to the Lea’s murky waters. “Tottenham is my mind, body, and soul,” she sings. Danger Mouse’s stomping, swaying, organ-heavy track evokes gospel music, a perfect match for her hymn-like delivery. As Adele told The New York Times, “There’s a saying, you can take a girl out of Tottenham, but you can’t take Tottenham out of the girl.” This song proves you’d never want to. —J.D.

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“Oh My God”

“Oh My God” almost seems like an anomaly on Adele’s latest album compared to its more audibly heartbreaking counterparts — or that’s what it wants you to think. But with an exhilarating dance-pop chorus interspersed with pulsating Afrobeat-inspired verses, the 30 track nearly shrouds the intense unease in its lyrics. The Greg Kurstin-produced track is practically begging to be a club-ready anthem as Adele self-interrogates and confronts her alluring but terrifying new reality: “I know that it’s wrong/ But I want to have fun.” Despite her anxieties, Adele refuses to leave herself behind and jumps in headfirst. —I.K.

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“Melt My Heart to Stone”

This lush 19 track is a surrender to the fact that a relationship is over, no matter how weak they leave her. “You say my name like there could be an us/I best tidy up my head, I’m the only one in love,” she sings on the chorus. The song is full of beautiful string arrangements that create a brighter tone than the reality, evoking the same emotional confusion she navigates on the song. —B.S.

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“All Night Parking” (with Erroll Garner)

Adele’s albums don’t usually have features, but this interlude was a special exception: The short-and-sweet track gives credit to late, great jazz pianist Erroll Garner, whose song “No More Shadows” is sampled (via the 2017 Joey Pecoraro song “Finding Parking”). The song is about a relationship she had following her divorce, a long-distance romance that found her unable to get her lover out of her head. It’s peak puppy love, with Adele at her most flirtatious. —B.S.

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“Take It All”

Like the rest of 21, “Taking It All” is stewing with heartbreak. But the gospel-tinged track isn’t quite about a breakup — not fully at least. It’s a final ultimatum — an explosion of frustration, devotion, and desperation to hold on to a crumbling relationship. What makes “Take It All” so striking is not only the starkness of the piano ballad but how candid Adele is about how much she’s willing to compromise herself for the sake of trying to save something that is already on the verge of its demise: “I will change if I must/Slow it down and bring it home/ I will adjust,” she assures. But, as she already knows, it’s not worth it. —I.K.

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“Lay Me Down”

This 25 bonus track is a surrender: Adele gives all of herself to her love, telling them that she would only lie or break the rules if they told her to. It’s a sexy ballad, as she admits she can’t open her heart “standing up.” She teamed up with Tobias Jesso Jr. and Mark Ronson for this secret, soulful gem that exalts the more carnal nature of love, which was found on Target exclusives. —B.S.

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“Love Is a Game”

“Love is a game for fools to play” — no kidding, Adele. But in this song, she’s willing to risk falling in love again, even though she knows it means playing the fool and taking on that self-inflicted pain again. (If it’s any consolation, Adele, “I’m not easy to hold” is probably not the world’s biggest surprise.) Like so many highlights on 30, “Love Is a Game” is an ingenious collaboration with London producer Inflo, of Sault fame. She vamps on Memphis soul chords from Al Green’s classic “Livin’ for You,” but with 1960s girl-group chants and vintage old-time Hollywood strings. —R.S.

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“One and Only”

A soaring moment of optimistic rapture amidst the romantic turmoil and desolation of 21, “One and Only” builds from a cathartic, late-night piano ballad into a huge pop-soul showstopper, mirroring hopeful lyrics about letting down your guard and opening yourself up to a relationship that might actually work: “God only knows why it’s taken me so long to let my doubts go/You’re the only one that I wanted,” Adele sings. She later called it “the first happy song I’ve ever written.” —J.D.

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“My Little Love”

Adele sings to her son over a late-night bar piano and a light throb of funk bass in the tear-jerker “My Little Love.” The music is interwoven with confessional voice messages that escalate in intensity: “Mummy’s been having a lot of big feelings recently,” “I don’t really know what I’m doing,” “I just feel really lonely, I feel a bit frightened that I might feel like this a lot.” But a chorus of backing vocalists washes continuously in the background of “My Little Love” as it stretches past six minutes. While Adele admits to being “paranoid” and “stressed,” the chorus continues to beam soothing harmonies behind her, providing gentle reassurance. —E.L.

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At one point during the sessions for 21, Adele and producer Rick Rubin considered a cover of INXS’ “Never Tear Us Apart.” The idea was shelved, but Rubin also suggested a radical redo of the Cure’s “Lovesong.” “The bossa nova idea came because of a conversation I had had with Barbra Streisand, who wanted to make a bossa nova album,” Rubin told RS in 2012. “I actually made a crude demo of the idea to play for Barbra. I played that demo for Adele, and she said she wanted to record it.” Smart move: Whereas the Cure’s version is a pulsating expression of devotion, Adele turns this unplugged take into a requiem for a romance. —D.B.

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When Adele was handed the torch to create a James Bond theme, she understood the assignment. With “Skyfall,” the singer created a cinematic classic that escalated with the intrigue, mystery, and sultriness needed for 007. Though it’s a stunning orchestral pop ballad that highlights Adele’s velvety vocals and lush strings, there’s a hollowness to the lyrics that perhaps stems from the fact that it was specifically composed for the film itself. Still, Skyfall’s soundtrack ended up being the highest-charting Bond album in 27 years. —I.K.

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“Cry Your Heart Out”

Adele is nearing emotional rock bottom in “Cry Your Heart Out,” but she disguises all her agitation with a breezy soul shuffle. Perhaps no one employed this tactic better than the Motown machine of the 1960s; think of Smokey Robinson’s “The Tracks of My Tears,” a gloriously bright song about trying to hide emotional turmoil. Adele draws easily on this tradition, working with producer Greg Kurstin to conjure an echo of Motown’s classic swing — a light skip accented on the second and fourth beat, female “ooh-ooh-wooh” backing vocals, an instantly graspable piano melody. Adele sings that she has “never been more scared,” but she tries to find a silver lining in all her distress: “Cry your heart out, it’ll clean your face/When you’re in doubt, go at your own pace.” — E.L.

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“Daydreamer” was on the demo that got Adele her deal with XL Records, cut while she was a student at the Brit School, and it ended up being the opening track on 19. It’s a delicate folk tune about a boy “with eyes that make you melt,” inspired by a close friend Adele had an unrequited crush on. Her lithe phrasing intersects beautifully with the song’s lilting acoustic melody, and she extends her notes over the spare guitar part like weeping willows over a sleepy river, suggesting confessional folk as an enticing road not taken in her soon-to-be epic career. —J.D.

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“Don’t You Remember”

This gorgeous track has the singer begging her lover to remember what made them fall for each other in the first place. While their relationship left the pair in a bitter place and has since ended, Adele maturely points out some of her flaws that may have contributed to their love drying up: “a fickle heart/and a bitterness/and a wandering eye/and a heaviness in my heart,” she lists before belting out the chorus. —B.S.

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“Water Under the Bridge”

One of the only shames of Adele’s career is that this slice of pop heaven was not a massive hit. Featuring a slightly tropical riff that gives the track an Eighties soft-rock edge, Adele wants to know if her partner is in or out. She knows that their love is too strong to ignore, but the couple is at the precipice of either something great or their end. “Water Under the Bridge” would finally get its due six years after its release: The song went viral in November 2021 on TikTok when a creator mashed up audio of the chorus over a video of Megan Thee Stallion dancing to her single “Body,” prompting a dance challenge on the popular app. —B.S.

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“All I Ask”

This is Adele reaching for the majesty of transcendently pulpy Eighties ballads: Lionel Richie and Diana Ross’ “Endless Love,” Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack’s “Tonight I Celebrate My Love,” Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin’s “Separate Lives.” Of course, those were all duets; in typical powerhouse fashion, Adele handles all the drama herself, including the requisite key change in the song’s final minute. (Bruno Mars co-wrote the track and has also performed an impressive version for BBC’s Live Lounge.) Adele is scraping the bottom of the emotional barrel again, worried she’s staring down a future of lonely dinners and empty beds. She pleads for one final moment of comfort before she’s thrown to the wolves: “If this is my last night with you/Hold me like I’m more than just a friend.” —E.L.

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“To Be Loved”

The instant you hear the intro of “To Be Loved” — the haunting breathiness of Adele’s powerhouse vocals over trickling piano keys — it evokes an homage to Whitney Houston’s rendition of “I Will Always Love You.” Right then and there, you know you’re about to be hit with the ultimate tear-jerker. Co-written and co-produced by Tobias Jesso Jr., the song, which touts self-acceptance and accountability, is quintessential Adele: wistful, wise beyond its years, and flanked by a belted chorus that gives you chills. “To be loved and love at the highest count/ Means to lose all the things I can’t live without,” Adele vulnerably concedes. It’s a powerful moment of both growth and resignation — of someone ready for their next chapter. —I.K.

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“Make You Feel My Love”

“Make You Feel My Love” is the only song on Adele’s debut album that she hadn’t written herself. After spending the entire record attempting to make sense of this tumultuous relationship she’d just gotten out of, the person who seemed to know just what to say was Bob Dylan. The warmth of Adele’s tone softens an already saccharine string of lyrics placed carefully over a bed of strings. It centers an unsuspecting listener in the audience at a softly lit performance space, where she shines with the arresting essence of a natural spotlight. Plenty of other artists have tried the song on for size, but none quite like Adele. —L.P.

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“Love in the Dark”

The idea of being on the receiving end of a damning breakup record where Adele rages on about just how much she’ll be missed once she’s gone is mortifying enough, but the kindness and candor she wields to end a relationship on “Love in the Dark” is somehow even more distressing. From the pleading in “Please don’t fall apart, I can’t face your breaking heart” to the insistence in “I’m trying to be brave, stop asking me to stay,” it isn’t a record that points fingers or allocates blame. Sometimes it just doesn’t work. And if there’s one thing we know about Adele, it’s that given the option to either remain stagnant for the comfort of anyone else or break free for the sake of what’s best for herself, she’ll always choose the latter. —L.P.

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“Chasing Pavements”

The song that established Adele, leading to her first Grammy, came from a typically emotional place involving a wayward boyfriend and the bar where he was hanging out. “I went to the pub and punched him in the face,” she told RS. “I got thrown out, and as I was running away, the phrase ‘chasing pavements’ came to me.” But in a sign of the way she instantly became heir to classic British pop chanteuses like Dusty Springfield and Petula Clark, Adele harnessed those inflamed, conflicting emotions and transformed them into sublime pop. The ache in her voice, especially in the choruses, is enough to make you track down that dude and punch him out yourself. —D.B.

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“Rumour Has It”

Clobbering drums drive “Rumor Has It,” a story of backstabbing and betrayal where Adele sends scathing blasts at an ex and his new romantic interest. This is one of the most aggressive hits in the singer’s catalog, with a martial beat, gnashing guitars, and a series of hiccupping rasps in Adele’s voice that enhance the messiness she describes. No one comes off looking good — Adele and her ex are both “cold to the core,” the ex’s new lover is half his age and barely holding half his interest, and everyone is on the verge of leaving everyone else. But all’s fair in love and war: “Just ’cause I said it,” Adele sings, “don’t mean that I meant it.” —E.L.

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“Turning Tables”

The placement of “Turning Tables” in the opening three-song stretch of 21, just after “Rolling in the Deep” and “Rumour Has It,” feels something like Alice’s tumble through the rabbit hole into wonderland — except what awaits at the other end isn’t another grooving takedown. Instead, the song’s initially simple piano melody soars into a dramatic, orchestral performance of epic proportions. It’s a declaration of self-protection. When Adele writes her protagonist into a ghost roaming the graveyard of lost love under haunted skies, he’s no longer a problem she’s responsible for solving, especially not at the expense of herself: “I braved a hundred storms to leave you/As hard as you try, no, I will never be knocked down.” —L.P.