Why Adele's '25' came in at number one for the fourth week in a row

The singer's album continued to dominate sales charts weeks after its release. Adele's '21' is also selling well following the success of her new album.

Virginia Sherwood/NBC/AP
Adele performs at Radio City Music Hall in New York in 2015.

Adele continues to be unstoppable with her sales numbers for her newest album “25.”

In its fourth week of release, Adele’s “25” stayed at number one on the Billboard 200, a chart that tracks sales for albums. “25” has sold 5.98 million copies so far and sold an additional 825,000 copies in this past week, becoming the bestselling album since the singer’s own album “21” in 2011. “21” is now at number 10 on the Billboard 200, its numbers no doubt helped by the success of “25.”

To compare its most recent sales numbers, Adele’s 825,000 copies sold this past week are far above the copies sold by the artist who came in at number two, Justin Bieber. His “Purpose” sold 166,000 units this past week. 

Adele is at number one, but how are her numbers so much higher than the artists just below her on the Billboard 200?

The Billboard 200 looks at which albums are the biggest based on data that includes regular albums and streaming albums, among other numbers. Adele is not on streaming services such as Spotify, while Bieber’s “Purpose,” for example, is, so one would assume that an album like "Purpose" would benefit from being available on more platforms. 

But Adele’s numbers show that if you have the sales power possessed by the singer, you can still experience stratospheric sales numbers even if you don’t release your work on streaming. Very few artists, of course, possess the cross-over appeal of Adele, with her work appearing to be admired by music fans across demographics. It would be difficult to achieve these numbers otherwise.

Adele’s “25” is now the biggest-selling album in one year since 2004, when singer Usher released the album “Confessions.” The two artists have very different styles and "25" and "Confessions" were released during what are almost two different musical eras. But what do the two have in common? 

Both Adele and Usher were already established artists who had a fan base. Adele’s “25” is her third work, while “Confessions” was Usher’s fourth studio album. 

Both also had somewhat unusual strategies in an attempt to put the emphasis on sales of the album itself versus then-current methods of listening to music. Usher released his album at a time when illegal downloading was popular. So he later released another version of the album that had new tracks and other extras, no doubt hoping to extend the album sales. One of the new tracks that was added was Usher’s chart-topping duet with Alicia Keys, “My Boo.”

Similarly, Adele avoided putting her album on streaming services when she released “25,” no doubt hoping to increase regular sales of the album.

As for the future of "25," Adele is no doubt hoping "25" will have the sales longevity of "21." That album became the bestselling album of the year for both 2011 and 2012 after being released in early 2011. Last month, Billboard named Adele's "21" the number one album of all time on the chart, with the album taking this place because of its time at number one and its time near the top of the Billboard 200. "21" beat both big-time sellers "Thriller" by Michael Jackson and the "Sound of Music" movie soundtrack to receive this honor by Billboard. "21" also holds the record for the most time at number one on the chart for an album by a female singer.

In order to achieve this kind of success, longevity is the key rather than just starting out big. Adele's "25" has already experienced big numbers, but it will have to stick around to recapture the success of "21."

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