Home Music Music Lists

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

Play video

Andy Sheppard/Redferns/Getty Images


“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.

Play video

Kevin Mazur/WireImage


“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.

Play video

CBS/Getty Images


“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.

Play video

“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.

Play video

Douglas Gorenstein/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal/Getty Images


“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.

Play video

Matt Sayles/AP



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.

Play video

Kevin Winter/Getty Images



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.

Play video

Christopher Polk/NARAS/Getty Images


“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.

Play video

Jo Hale/Getty Images



“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.

Play video

Kevin Winter/Getty Images


“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.

Play video

Mike Marsland/WireImage


“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.

Play video

Dana Edelson/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal/Getty Images


“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.

Play video

Simon Emmett*


“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.

Play video

“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.

Play video



“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.

Play video

“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.

Play video

Jason Merritt/Getty Images


“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.

Play video

Mike Marsland/WireImage


“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.