The Cricket: Two years on, Adele's '21' still hits the jackpot

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All winning streaks have to end sometime, especially in the ever-changing world of pop music.

So that's not why the news this week was surprising that the British singer Adele's top-selling and Grammy-winning album "21" dropped off the United Kingdom's Top 40 album chart.

Instead, what was surprising was that the album had been on the chart since it was released in Britain on Jan. 24, 2011 — a run of 22 months. That's forever in music years.

According to the British music mag NME, "21" sold more than 4.5 million units in the U.K., making it the fifth best-selling album of all time there — as well as the most downloaded album ever in the U.K.

In the United States, as of this week, "21" has been on the Billboard 200 chart for 91 straight weeks, since its U.S. release in February 2011. It spent 80 of those weeks in the Top 10, a mark exceeded only by two other albums in history: the soundtrack to "The Sound of Music" and Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." This week, it hit 10 million in U.S. sales.

And even nearly two years later, it's not unusual to turn on the radio and hear "Rolling in the Deep" or "Rumour Has It" or "Someone Like You" blasting at you. That is, if the station isn't playing Adele's new single, the title song from the James Bond movie "Skyfall," every hour on the hour.

The commercial success of "21," the critical acclaim and the six Grammy awards have left a lasting impact on the musical landscape.

Adele's old-school voice, capable of belting out hard blues and seducing with a heartbroken whisper, is a refreshing relief among the sea of narrow-ranged female singers getting tweaked with AutoTune. And her ability to match her voice to the lyric, to know when to bring the bombast and when to let silence do the work, is a welcome change from the go-for-broke, context-be-damned approach employed on every singing-competition show since Simon Cowell first reared his well-coiffed head.

Then there's Adele's famed ability to translate her personal pain over a breakup into universally relatable songs of heartbreak. There's nothing particularly new about that — historians have long wondered to whom Beethoven wrote "Für Elise," and the speculation over Carly Simon's target of "You're So Vain" continues decades later — but Adele made heartbreak hip again.

Look, for example, at how Katy Perry turned her very public divorce from comedian Russell Brand into two biting singles, "Part of Me" and "Wide Awake," declarations of independence that were strikingly different from the sunny party hits on her "Teenage Dream" album. And then there's Taylor Swift, whose confessional songs could come with hyperlinks to the appropriate TMZ post about her past romantic liaisons.

And Adele herself — a "Georgy Girl" plus-sized gal in an industry dominated by too-skinny female singers — is a testament to substance over slick packaging.

And for proof that Adele's talents as a song stylist extend past her own repertoire, check out the cover of The Cure's "Lovesong," one of the deeper album cuts on "21."

When the tabloids started reporting on Adele's new love life — she and her boyfriend, entrepreneur Simon Konecki, welcomed a baby boy in October — the running joke on Twitter was that her personal happiness would ensure that her next album would be awful.

Smart money and the success of the "Skyfall" single say otherwise. This is someone who will find inspiration in all parts of life and should be able to transform it into sweet music.

Sean P. Means writes The Cricket in daily blog form, at Follow him on Twitter @moviecricket, or on Facebook: Email him at