ABC Music News

The Year in Music 2021: The British Re-Invasion — Adele and Ed Sheeran return

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Ed: Dan Martensen; Adele: Simon Emmett

In 2021, two of music’s biggest superstars — Ed Sheeran and Adele — released their eagerly awaited new albums to an adoring public.

–In February, Ed celebrated his 30th birthday. In June, he released a new single, “Bad Habits,” and in August, he announced that his new album would be called = [Equals] and that it’d be released on October 29. 

–In September, Ed celebrated the 10th anniversary of the release of his debut album, + (Plus), with a special concert at London’s O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, and announced a massive 2022 European stadium tour kicking off in April.

–On October 24, after a massive worldwide promotional blitz, Ed and his daughter Lyra both came down with COVID-19, just days before the release of = [Equals]. However, he managed to make it out of quarantine to perform on Saturday Night Live November 6.

— = [Equals], Ed’s first new solo album since 2017’s world-beating ÷ [Divide], debuted at number one in the U.S. and has so far spun off three hits: “Bad Habits,” “Shivers” and “Overpass Graffiti.

–While = [Equals] sold a respectable 118,000 equivalent album units in its first week in the U.S., in the U.K., it had the biggest opening week of 2021, and the biggest overall since ÷ [Divide] in 2017.  Both of those records were broken the following week by ABBA‘s comeback album, Voyage.

–“Bad Habits” peaked at number two in the U.S. but topped the charts for 11 weeks in the U.K.  In November, it received a Grammy nomination for Song of the Year.

–And in December, Ed and his pal Elton John teamed up for an instantly successful holiday single, “Merry Christmas.” 

But any dreams that Ed had of truly dominating the charts in 2021 were squashed by Adele.

–In October, after years of speculation, Adele announced a new single, “Easy On Me.” That was followed by the news that her her first album in six years, titled 30, would arrive November 19.

–“Easy On Me” arrived October 15. In five hours, it entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 68, and then rose to the number-one spot a few days later, becoming Adele’s first number one since 2015’s “Hello.”

–After a promotional push that included a sit-down with Oprah Winfrey on CBS, 30 entered the chart at number one, earning 839,000 equivalent album units in its first week, giving Adele the biggest debut week of any album in 2021. 

–By December 6, 30 had earned one million in traditional album sales — meaning CDs, vinyl, cassettes and digital album downloads — making it the first album in more than a year to do so.

–On November 30, Adele announced a Las Vegas residency, Weekends with Adele, which will see her playing two shows at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas every weekend from January 21, 2022 through Saturday, April 16.

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