This is the first single from English R&B singer-songwriter Adele's second album 21. The song was written and produced by Adele and British producer Paul Epworth, who is best known for manning the boards for Bloc Party and Florence and the Machine, and also for his work on Everything Is New, the second release from Adele's chum, Jack Peñate. Adele describes the single as a "dark bluesy gospel disco tune."
On this revenge song, Adele lays into a former boyfriend. "It's me making a bit of a statement," she told Q Magazine. "People will hear it and go, Wow, she ain't mucking around."
Adele described the song to Spin magazine as a kiss-off to an unfaithful dude. "It's me saying, 'Get the f--k out of my house instead of me begging him to come back," she said.
"It's my musical equivalent of saying things in the heat of the moment and word-vomiting," she added. "It was my reaction to being told my life was going to be lonely and boring and rubbish, and that I was a weak person if I didn't stay in the relationship. I was very insulted, and wrote that as a sort of f--k you."
Adele credits her producer Paul Epworth for coaxing a mighty performance out of her on this track. "There's notes in that song I never even knew I could hit," she said.
While she was touring North America in support of 19, Adele was introduced by her bus driver to a Wanda Jackson greatest hits album. As she traveled round the Southern states, she found herself drawn to American country music, including Alison Krauss, Rascal Flatts and Lady Antebellum. Once she began prepping her sophomore release back in England, Adele began incorporating those new influences into songs, like this one where her voice incorporates in part Jackson's dirty-blues growl. "I wanted the songs not to have anything glittery or glamorous about them, like an organic tapestry rather than like a Gaga album," the singer told Rolling Stone. "I mean, I love Gaga, but I didn't want to get wrapped up in all that European dance music."
Like 19, the 21 title refers to Adele's age at the time the songs were written. The British singer explained on her website that the album "knocked me for six when writing it." She added: "It's different from 19, it's about the same things but in a different light. I deal with things differently now. I'm more patient, more honest, more forgiving and more aware of my own flaws, habits and principles. Something that comes with age I think. So fittingly this record is called 21. Everyday something happens that affects me, whether it be relationships, events, something I hear, something I see or something I feel. All of which is helping define me and turning me in to who I'm becoming. The whole reason I called my first album 19 was about cataloguing what happened to me then and who I was then, like a photo album you see the progression and changes in a person throughout the years. I tried to think of other album titles but couldn't come up with anything that represented the album properly, I kept swerving 21 thinking it was obvious. But why not be obvious?"
Much of 21, including this song, is about Adele's life after a tumultuous relationship in the years following her success. "I was angry!" she told Spinner. "I was really, really angry with my personal life up to about a year ago. I've grown up a little as well, and I like to think I've blossomed into who I'm going to become. I'm not really willing to be walked all over like I was with the relationship that the first record is about. I have the upper hand now, so yeah, the whole record is a bit bitter."
Adele could have called this song "We Could Have Had It All," but that would have been fairly typical and sound like something Whitney Houston would sing. Instead, she used another line in the chorus that is curious to American listeners, adding some intrigue to the song. So what does the phrase "Rolling In The Deep" mean? She described it to Rolling Stone as an, "adaptation of a kind of slang, slur phrase in the UK called 'roll deep,' which means to have someone, always have someone that has your back, and you're never on your own, if you're ever in trouble you've always got someone who's going to come and help you fight it or whatever like that. And that's how I felt in the relationship that the record's about, especially 'Rolling in the Deep.' That's how I felt, you know, I thought that's what I was always going to have, and um, it ended up not being the case."
Speaking about this song soon after it was released, Adele made it clear that the fit of fury that inspired this song was not a common occurrence. "It takes a lot of s--t to get me upset and crazy, so when I get angry I can really feel my blood flowing around my body," she said.
21 debuted at #1 on the UK album chart in the last week of January with sales of over 200,000 copies. This was more than any other long player has managed in the first month of the year since the Arctic Monkeys shifted 360,000 copies of Whatever People Say I Am That's What I'm Not in January 2006.
Adele wrote this in three hours the day after she broke up with her boyfriend. Arriving upset at the studio the day after they split, she wanted to write a lovelorn ballad. Producer Paul Epworth persuaded her to write a more feisty song.
21 was the best-selling album of both 2011 and 2012 in the US with sales of 5.8 and 4.4 million respectively. It was the first time one longplayer had topped the sales chart for two years in a row since Nielsen Soundscan began tracking US album sales in 1991.
Adele also scored the best-selling single of the year with this song.
Structurally, this song works very well because it builds in musical intensity to match the lyrics. It starts off with a 5-second acoustic intro, and then Adele starts singing about "the scars of your love." The chorus doesn't come until a minute into the song, which is late by Pop song standards. By then, it has built to a climax with a pre-chorus containing the backing vocals "You're gonna wish you never had met me" and "Tears are gonna fall." You know she means business! There is no bridge, but the chorus shows up three times, accounting for almost half the song.
One factor in "Deep"'s success is its multi-format appeal. In the US it charted on Billboard's Adult Contemporary, Alternative Songs, Hot Dance Club Songs, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, Rock Songs, Pop Songs and Adult Pop Songs charts, topping the latter two.
The song is the first Hot 100 #1 sung by a female artist to have appeared on a rock chart since Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories' "Stay (I Missed You)
" led for three weeks and peaked at #7 on Alternative Songs in 1994.
According to Billboard
, this was the biggest crossover song of the last 25 years, showing up on 12 different radio airplay formats - even Latin. The publication also declared it the best-selling song of 2011.
21 became the biggest-selling album of the 21st century in the UK when it overtook the sales of Amy Winehouse's Back to Black in early December 2011.
21 was the best-selling album of 2011 in the UK selling 3.4 million copies. Adele's debut album 19 was the second biggest seller followed by Bruno Mars' Doo Wops & Hooligans in third place.
Rolling Stone named this song as the best single of 2011 whilst 21 was their best album of the year. The magazine's editors described the tune as the "breakup scorcher to beat all breakup scorchers."
Adele made her live comeback following throat microsurgery in November 2011 at the 2012 Grammy Awards, when she performed this song. Adele won six Grammys at the ceremony - Best Song, Best Record and Best Short Form Music Video for this song, Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album for 21
, and Best Pop Solo Performance for "Someone Like You
." "This record is inspired by something really normal, everyone's been through it, just a rubbish relationship. It's been the most life-changing year," she said during her Best Album acceptance speech.
Adele's haul of six awards made her the second female artist after Beyoncé in Grammy history to win six categories in a single night.
According to the New York Post, the former boyfriend who inspired much of 21 is a British musician/actor named Slinky Winfield, who was part of Adele's South London circle of friends. Heat Magazine threw out a different name, identifying the man that inspired this and the other heartbreaking songs on 21 to be photographer Alex Sturrock. According to the UK tabloid, Adele and Sturrock dated from the summer of 2008 to April 2009.
21's 21st week at #1 on the American album chart resulted in a number of milestones. Among them:
1) It broke the record for the most weeks for a woman at the top of Billboard's album chart, displacing in the week of Whitney Houston's funeral her soundtrack LP for The Bodyguard.
2) The record sold 730,000 copies in its 21st week at #1, following Adele's six wins at the 2012 Grammy Awards, moving from 237,000 copies during the previous seven days. Excluding albums that were released on an irregular schedule, or, arrived early due to street-date violation sales, the 493,000 gain was the largest weekly unit increase for an album since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking data in 1991. The previous best was also as a result of a performance at the Grammy Awards when on March 15, 2003, Norah Jones' Come Away With Me sold 621,000 (up from 144,000 the previous week).
3) The 730,000 copies sold was the best week for any album since Lil Wayne's Tha Carter IV debuted with 964,000 on the chart dated September 17, 2011.
4) It was 21's biggest sales week, in its 52nd week on the chart. Its previous highest frame was during the 2011 Christmas week, when it shifted 399,000.
The song surpassed Los Del Rio's "Macarena
" for the longest chart stay for a Hot 100 # 1 hit on its 61st week on the survey. "Rolling"'s long stay was usurped by LMFAO's chart-topper "Party Rock Anthem
," which spent 68 weeks on the Hot 100.
This was named the most performed work of 2011 at the 57th Ivor Novello Awards. Accepting the award with Paul Epworth, Adele said that she never expected the song to be a hit. "No offense Paul, I didn't think it was going to do anything, anywhere!," she quipped.
Adele was also named songwriter of the year at the same ceremony.
The lyric "You'll pay me back in kind and reap just what you sow" is taken in part from a Bible verse. The Apostle Paul's letter to the Galatians (chapter 6:7): "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." Your actions will come back to bite you or bless you, depending on whether you sow hatred or love.
This was covered by Aretha Franklin on her 2014 album, Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics
. The Queen of Soul is a fan of Adele's 21
album. She said: "I absolutely loved her CD. In addition to being a great singer, she's a great writer, a deep, heavy writer. She doesn't write the usual or the norm."
Franklin performed the Adele hit on the September 29, 2014 episode of Late Night with David Letterman
, infusing it with some of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough
Adele was inebriated while writing a majority of 21, drinking two bottles of wine and chain-smoking on a regular basis. "A drunk tongue is an honest one," she told Vanity Fare. "I can see from an outsider's perspective that I will never write songs as good as the ones that are on 21, but I'm not as indulgent as I was then, and I don't have time to fall apart like I did then."