Adele is clearly playing by her own rules now.
She broke music industry conventions Friday by releasing the booming ballad "Hello" as the first single from her upcoming album "25" (XL/Columbia), now set for a Nov. 20 release.
"Hello" is a minimalistic ballad, with little instrumentation beyond piano and a throbbing beat to augment Adele's emotional performance for much of the song. It's her latest breakup song, as she tries to apologize to an ex. "I tried to tell you I'm sorry for breaking your heart," she sings. "But it don't matter. It clearly doesn't tear you apart anymore."
It's unusual for a superstar to release a ballad as the single to launch an album. Taylor Swift started "1989" with "Shake It Off." Justin Timberlake kicked off "The 20/20 Experience" with "Suit and Tie." And Adele herself rolled out "21" -- which, in addition to being the biggest-selling album of both 2011 and 2012, has been certified diamond for sales of 10 million copies -- with two up-tempo singles "Rolling in the Deep" and "Rumour Has It" before releasing ballads.
However, when you are following up the biggest album of the century so far, the rules don't necessarily apply to you. And Adele's "Hello" has already shot to No. 1 on the iTunes singles chart and preorders for "25" have sent the album to No. 1 on the iTunes album chart.
For her part, Adele is already starting to think about her next album, telling Zane Lowe on Apple Music's Beats1 show that she already has a title picked out. "I think this will be my last age one," she said. "I'm sure I'm wrong with this but I feel there's been a massive change in me in the last couple of years . . . But I feel like the idea of calling albums after my age is showing a photograph almost of what's going on in my life then and there. I feel like not that much is going to change profoundly in me from now on in terms of how important eras of my life are to myself. So I think the next one will probably be called Adele. It will be, I'm not joking."