Will Adele’s ’25’ be to ’21’ what ‘BAD’ was to ‘Thriller?’


3 MILLION COPIES! That’s how many Adele’s 25 sold this week in the U.S alone. Making it the fastest selling album of all time by a wide margin. Beating previous record held by NSync 15 years ago. The album also sold a record breaking 737,000 copies in the UK alone this week. It’s crazy how in a musical climate such as today’s where it’s a struggle even for a relatively big artist to hit Platinum, Adele is selling millions by the boatload like it’s the 1990s again. Who doesn’t like Adele? Her audience ranges from elderly people collecting their pensions to teenyboppers who would regularly bang out Taylor Swift’s music on a normal day. Even if the “hardest” roadman wont admit in public that “yeah that Adele goes hard still”, I guarantee you he’ll bump her in the whip whenever he reminisces over his previous ride or die chick. Adele just has that rare “it” factor which allows her to appeal to a broad demographic. Her previous album 21 sold 30 million copies worldwide. A feat which took just over 2 years to achieve. However with all the success of her last album the big question on everyone is mind is: Can 25 surpass or even match the sales of 21?

Many are in doubt understandably. It’s rare that an artist can strike lightning twice. 21 was a rare phenomenon. The fact that album was able to sell so much in 2011-2012 is still a head-scratcher. Such astronomical sales in today’s musical climate are arguably equivalent to the phenomenal success Michael Jackson was having in the 80s with Thriller. Which brings me to the main point of this article: Will 25 prove to be the peak of her career or has she already made her Thriller?

In the summer of 1987 Michael Jackson was prepping up for the release of his album BAD. He was undoubtedly the biggest superstar on the planet. He was coming off the success of his uber-successful Thriller album which had already by that point held the distinction of being the biggest selling album of all time. The anticipation for his follow up was surreal. The whole world was watching and wondered if he could surpass Thriller and he knew it. He became so obsessed with surpassing his previous album that he was quoted to have wrote up on the walls and mirrors in his house “100 Million” indicating he’s desire for BAD to surpass Thriller. BAD ended up becoming a phenomenal success it sold much faster than Thriller did initially and went on to spawn a record 5 No.1 hits. However that still wasn’t enough for the album to surpass Thriller. BAD went on to sell between 30-45 million copies worldwide. Phenomenal numbers but nothing in comparison to Thriller’s mammoth 100 million. Poor Michael would go onto try and surpass Thriller for the rest of his career. All his follow ups would sell incredibly well but he was never able to beat it (pun intended).

Adele finds herself in a similar predicament. As already stated Adele’s 25 already has become the fastest selling album of all time. The hype surrounding her album is in full swing and it is likely that the album will not only continue to dominate into the new year but most likely for the whole of 2016. However I doubt that she will be able to surpass or even match the success of 21. I say this for a few reasons.

First of all despite how people may remember it 21 was not the monster hit it was from the get go it was a sleeper hit. Just like MJ’s Thriller. Both artists where well established artists when they initially dropped their respective albums but none where the pop icons they became after the success of those albums. Adele’s 21 only really started to pick up steam after her performance of Someone Like You at the 2011 Brit Awards whereas Thriller only started to become a phenomenon after MJ’s iconic performance of Billie Jean at the Motown 25 special when he debuted his legendary moonwalk.  25 is at a disadvantage because unlike the aforementioned albums it’s hype is already at a fever-pitch. it runs the risk of the hype surrounding it burning out too soon. It’s only a matter of time before the album will be “old news”.

Secondly I believe 25 will not be as successful as 21 in the long run because at the time Adele released her last album, there really was not anyone doing what she was doing. Don’t get me wrong there was nothing new about the type of music she was releasing either. Artists like Duffy (Forgot about?…Yeah you ain’t the only one) and Amy Winehouse had been making music in a similar vein to her prior to that album’s release already but by the time 21 was released, Duffy had fallen off the map and Amy Winehouse’s career had long been in the dumps and she ended up passing away that year (R.I.P). Therefore leaving a void for her to fill. Whereas today you have a wave of Adele imitators and artists that are at least inspired by her, releasing music (I’m looking at you Sam Smith). One thing that was appealing about her music and that certainly played a key factor in her success, was the image of her music. It wasn’t over the top or sexual and did not rely on any cheap gimmicks for her to move units. Now that she is not the only artist doing that these days people may not find her music as appealing or unique as they did back when 21 came out.

Thirdly today a lot of consumers listen to music via a little thing called streaming. When 21 dropped services like Apple Music and Spotify were not around yet. Spotify only launched in the U.S later that year and became big overtime whereas Apple Music only launched earlier this summer. Even though Adele’s album isn’t available for streaming just yet (something which definitely helped her album sales) it is only a matter of time before it will be. Once that happens people who amazingly may have not heard the album yet (you always get those people who are living under a rock) will want to listen to it via those services and some may choose not to go out and buy it. Not saying this will put a dent in her sales overall but it could significantly affect them in the long run.

Finally I don’t think she can surpass what she has done simply because how often is it that someone catches lightning in a bottle twice? Please tell me. The only artist I can think of is Eminem. His magnum opus The Marshall Mathers LP sold a milli in it’s first week and went on to sell over 20 million worldwide. He repeated this feat in 2002 with The Eminem Show. So there possibly is hope for Adele. History clearly shows otherwise though. 50 could not top Get Rich’, Wayne could not top Tha Carter III,  Shania couldn’t top Come On Over and MJ could not top THRILLER. It happens. Sometimes an artist will just reach a certain unbelievable stratosphere that they aren’t able to reach again. That is why its called a peak. You can only go down from there. Time will tell for Adele. Will she prove me wrong and do even better than 21 or will she just continue to “Chase Pavements” (you see what I did there?) for the rest of her career? Who knows?

Words by @NiftyNoel

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