Study the Hits – Songs by Adele

Songs by AdeleAdele had three back-to-back #1 hits on the AC radio charts – “Rolling In the Deep” “Someone Like You” and “Set Fire to the Rain”) Her powerful, expressive voice is a huge part of her success but her vivid, emotion-driven songs provide her with the perfect vehicle and it’s the combination that makes it happen. Adele has also been embraced by the Film & TV market, too. You can find a partial list of TV shows that have used her songs at It’s a long list!

I’m going to do something a little different in this “Study the Hits” post. I want to take a look at all three songs. They share similar lyric and melody writing techniques, yet they all sound quite different. I’m sure you’re familiar with these songs but I’ve included the videos to refer to as you read. Or… just watch and enjoy! 🙂

Set Fire to The Rain – Adele
Written by Adele and Fraser T Smith

Rolling In the Deep – Adele
Written by Adele and Paul Epworth

Someone Like You – Adele
Written by Adele and Dan Wilson

Lyrics are available on the Internet.
Shortcut numbers refer to my book “Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting” (“Hit”) and “Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV” (“Film/TV”). Both are available at

GENRE (What is a genre?)
Adele’s songs appear on the Adult Contemporary (AC) and Hot Adult Contemporary (Hot AC) radio airplay charts. Her melodic writing style, emotional lyrics, and strong vocals appeal to a wide demographic, from teens to 50-somethings, which makes her perfect for the AC radio format. Although she’s considered a singer-songwriter she has co-writers on all three songs.

Each of these three songs sounds quite different, but all feature the same commercial song structure:


Adele will often start the chorus right at the one-minute mark, which is just the right spot for a radio single. That’s about how long listeners are willing to wait for it. To keep listeners with her through the verse and pre-chorus, she fills the lyric with emotional details that draw them into the situation. Continue reading