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It’s hard to remember a time when Adele wasn’t using her talent and charm to make the world a better place, but the acclaimed British songstress has—unbelievably—only been around for about ten years. Adele’s debut studio album, 19, dropped on January 28, 2008 and is an underrated gem that often gets overshadowed by her two more recent albums, 21, and 25.
Both 21 and 25 are practically flawless, of course, but that doesn’t mean the rawer, more acoustic 19 doesn’t also deserve a permanent spot on your Spotify rotation. 19 gives listeners an idea of what Adele was like before she skyrocketed to fame and became a 15-time Grammy Award winner and is, at its core, representative of the emotions one experiences when transitioning from childhood into adulthood. And though Adele sounds as self-assured on “Chasing Pavements” as she does on “Hello,” the feelings of fear and doubt she describes on songs like “Hometown Glory” and “Best for Last” will likely resonate with any young adult who has experienced heartbreak and disappointment (i.e. every young adult ever).
19 is, for the most part, about relationships and growing up. But the album is far from one note and explores the countless number of thoughts and feelings associated with love and maturity rather than dwelling on just one or two. So like we did with Alanis Morrissette’s Jagged Little Pill and the Spice Girls’ Spiceworld, we’re letting you know which 19 tracks to listen to when you’re feeling sad, frustrated, angry, or all/none of the above.
In “Daydreamer,” Adele sings longingly about a guy she wants but knows she can’t have, using the chorus to fantasize about their imaginary relationship. It’s the perfect song to put on not only if you’re pining after someone from afar but also if you’re setting goals that seem impossible to achieve. Sure, Adele eventually bursts her own bubble and admits that she and her dream guy will probably never end up together. But it’s also kind of reassuring to listen to someone as accomplished as Adele admit defeat—Adele’s romantic dreams didn’t come true, but her professional dreams did. Maybe the same will happen to you.
When you hear Adele recite lines like “You build me up, then leave me there” and “I best tidy up my head, I’m the only one in love,” it’s pretty obvious that, at age 19, she’d already experienced what felt like crushing heartbreak. She’s not just sad or angry about the broken relationship, however—she’s disappointed. She sings about feeling frustrated with both herself and the object of her affection, lamenting the fact that no matter how in love she is, the boy she adores will never reciprocate that love in the way she wants and feels she deserves. Whether you’re disappointed with a significant other, a friend, or a family member, “Melt My Heart to Stone” will assure you that your feelings are justified.
This Mark Ronson-produced track might be one of the most danceable breakup songs we’ve ever heard. In “Cold Shoulder,” Adele sings about a boy who cheated on her and spoke to her with “words made of knives.” She’s hurt and devastated, but at the same time freely admits that she’d get back together with the lover who scorned her if given the chance. In short, it’s an anthem for anyone questioning the possibility of loving and hating someone at the same time. And if you’re not feeling “Cold Shoulder,” you can also try the bitterly optimistic “Right as Rain.”
19 isn’t the most cheery or upbeat album in the world (then again, neither are 21 or 25), but one track—“Crazy for You”—is unabashedly joyful. In it, Adele talks about being head over heels in love. But unlike “Tired,” “First Love,” or the aforementioned “Cold Shoulder,” she doesn’t talk about impossible relationships, heartbreak, or disappointment. Instead, she simply takes three and half minutes to gush about a guy who gets her into her “favourite mood” and makes her “blood boil” (in a good way). The track is also super bluesy, so it’s sure to brighten your mood even if you haven’t found that special someone quite yet.
“Chasing Pavements,” 19’s only Grammy-winning track, is a song about doubt, fear, and uncertainty. In “Hometown Glory,” Adele explores those same emotions but applies them to a completely different situation. Adele has confirmed that she wrote “Hometown Glory” after arguing with her mom about where to go to university—Adele wanted to stay home and study in London while her mom wanted her to study in Liverpool. While many teenagers feel the need to leave home as soon as humanly possible, Adele was clearly afraid that going off on her own would officially mark the end of her childhood. “Hometown Glory” was Adele’s very first single, and it’s probably also her most relatable.