Adele finishes 2016 in a familiar place: on top. Nearly five years after her last blockbuster album — 2011’s 21, which spent 24 weeks at No.1 on the Billboard 200 — the 28-year-old British pop powerhouse returned as if she had never left, closing out 2016 as Billboard’s top artist for a record third time.
Long breaks between albums seem only to confirm that Adele’s adoring fan base will spring for new music no matter when it arrives. Her third studio album, 25, hit shelves on Nov. 20, 2015, with a blend of epic ballads and soulful pop similar to that on her sophomore hit, 21, and easily conquered the Billboard 200, blasting in at No.1 with a Nielsen Music-era (1991 to the present) record of 3.4 million copies sold in its first week. So far, those sales have climbed to 9.1 million and counting.
The album’s runaway success is especially impressive — and indicative of Adele acolytes’ enduring loyalty — considering the fact that the singer initially shunned streaming services, denying 25 to Spotify until seven months after the album’s release. That didn’t hurt 25 one bit: It spent 10 weeks at No.1 on the weekly Billboard 200 (a chart driven by both track and album sales plus streaming) and is far and away the chart’s year-end winner.
That Adele announced her return with one of the year’s most inescapable singles certainly helped her clinch 2016’s top charts prize. “Hello” felt like a nod to listeners who had stuck out the last five years, going on to rule both the Billboard Hot 100 (staying at No.1 for 10 weeks) and the pop culture landscape (see the numerous Lionel Richie vs. Adele “Hello” memes, a viral “Carpool Karaoke” segment and a “Hello”-inspired Saturday Night Live skit, for starters).
The song closes out 2016 as the Hot 100’s year-end No.7 track — the second time Adele has finished within the top 10 on that list, following her No.1 in 2011 with “Rolling in the Deep.” And it’s just one of 25’s triumphs: Two other tracks, “When We Were Young” and “Send My Love (To Your New Lover),” charted in the weekly Hot 100’s top 20, and Adele went on to sell out a world tour, raking in more than $150 million from 100-plus shows across Europe and North America and finishing the year as the No.4 tour.