19: Revisiting Adele’s debut album 15 years on

Virgin Radio

27 Jan 2023, 12:52

Credit: Getty / XL Records

Adele made her debut on the album charts with 19 back in 28th January 2008, and she’s been on an unbelievable trajectory ever since. 

Following on from her graduation from the BRIT School just two years prior, the singer-songwriter from Tottenham provided a friend with a demo, which was soon posted to Myspace. 

The young artist soon found attention from XL records, and by 17, Adele had secured her very first recording contract. 

By October 2007, The soon-to-be superstar had already released very first single, Hometown Glory, which she penned aged only 16, but the work had already begun on what would become her big debut. 

Named after her age at the time of release, Adele’s 19 was praised for its blue-eyed soul sound, combined with folk, indie pop and jazz undertones. Her tracks focused on heartbreak, relationships and nostalgia, and it wasn’t long before her name found its way onto some seriously prestigious award lists. 

Hometown Glory, which had failed to chart upon its first release, was soon climbing up the singles charts as fans constantly searched for new songs from the up-and-coming talent. 

19 was swiftly shortlisted 2008’s Mercury Prize, and in a feat that only a few artists can ever say, Adele managed to pick up her first Grammy Awards in her debut year, picking up Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for Chasing Pavements, her sophomore single

Four singles were released from 19, with Make You Feel My Love reaching number four in the UK charts, and Cold Shoulder staying in the top 20. 

In what would become the first of four number one records, 19 landed right at the top spot in the UK album chart, selling over eight million copies worldwide. 

Speaking previously about the massive success of her first musical offering to the world, Adele told Blues and Soul that she titled the album 19 for a pretty simple reason. 

“I couldn't come up with anything else!” she said. “I always think debut album titles are really important. The best ones for me are 'Debut' by Bjork and Lauryn Hill`s 'Miseducation'. They’re ones that everyone just KNOWS, that don’t make you think TOO much, and are just quite obvious. And to me this album does very much represent my age. 

“I was only 19 years old when I was writing it, and I just kinda remember becoming a bit of a woman during that time.And I think that is definitely documented in the songs.”

Critically, Adele found huge support for her early work straight out of the gate. Billboard called her success early, suggesting at the time that "Adele truly has potential to become among the most respected and inspiring international artists of her generation.”

The Observer were also hugely positive, saying in their 19 review: "The way [Adele] stretched the vowels, her wonderful soulful phrasing, the sheer unadulterated pleasure of her voice, stood out all the more; little doubt that she's a rare singer, which another track first available on her MySpace site, 'Daydreamer', confirmed.”

Meanwhile, there were also plenty of comparisons to other female singers coming out of the UK at the same time, namely Amy Winehouse. Their chart-topping tracks led to some describing this period in time as the third British Musical Invasion of the US, the last occurring in the 1980s. 

Since those early days, Adele has released three more albums - 21, 25 and 30 - all of which have made it to the top of the charts. Ten years ago, the singer set fire to the charts once again with her very own James Bond theme - Skyfall.

In 2021, Adele was named the UK’s best-selling female album artist of the 21st century, and she currently stands at only a Tony away from a prestigious EGOT prize. 

19 truly cemented Adele’s status as one of the most powerful voices and performers in industry, and her debut release was just the tip of the iceberg of one of the most incredible careers in music. 

Adele was also the very first winner of the BRIT Rising Star Award (previously known as the Critics’ Choice Award), securing her place in BRITs history in 2008. 

On Virgin Radio UK this Sunday at 7pm, Stu Elmore will be taking a look back at the careers of Adele and other previous winners, and will play some of their stand out songs ahead of the Brit Awards on 11th February.