April 04, 2012 at 10:00 PM EDT

When EW interviewed Adele last spring in the garden of her hotel in Munich, the British singer-songwriter admitted she hadn’t thought her recently released second album, 21, would sell many copies in America. “I was saying, ‘I don’t think this record is going to do anything,” the chanteuse recalled. “I can’t feel the buzz in America.'”

What no one knew then, of course, was that 21 had only just started its spectacular run on the charts. Over the past year, the album has continued to sell…and sell. And sell. 21 has now shifted more than 19 million copies around the world — a figure which seems doubly remarkable given the ailing record industry, and triply so when you remember Adele wasn’t able to promote the album for many months due to a vocal cord hemorrhage and subsequent operation.

The cover story of Entertainment Weekly‘s Special Music Issue details how 21 became such a blockbuster, and the ways in which that success has affected so many aspects of the music industry, from the songs you hear on the radio today to the hunt for the “next Adele” being conducted by frantic A&R men from every label, particularly in the singer’s homeland.

As one U.K. talent scout told EW, “Obviously in meetings there’s a lot of ‘Why didn’t you sign Adele?’ Everyone goes out, tail in between their legs, and says, ‘Right, give me a girl singer with a voice!'”

Of course, the British Isles export more than just girl singers. Brit-Irish boy band One Direction recently topped the Billboard 200 chart with their debut album. In another of our Special Music Issue features, EW hit the road with Niall, Zayn, Liam, Louis, and Harry to experience the (occasionally PG-13) 1D mania firsthand.

So much good stuff! And the show has barely begun. In our list of the 30 Greatest Artists Right Now we explain the importance of Rihanna, Taylor Swift, the Black Keys, Drake, Jack White, Azealia Banks, and two dozen other musical phenomena; in our Ultimate 2012 Playlist we lay out the tracks you need to check out asap; and in our 2012 Coachella Preview we tell you the 10 bands we can’t wait to see. In short, you’ll find everything you need for your music-listening pleasure, including a free pair of ears*.

*Free pair of ears not included with magazine.

The Special Music Issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands April 6. Also, remember to follow @EW on Twitter.


Entertainment Weekly is now available on most tablets, including the iPad, Nook Color, Kindle Fire, and Samsung Galaxy. Think of it like the EW you already love, but on steroids: With our digital magazine, you can buy the recommended movies, albums, books, and DVDs while you’re reading about them. Plus, you can watch music videos and film trailers, and find movie showtimes in your neighborhood. Current subscribers can access the digital version of EW for free by downloading the EW app (also free) and logging in using your name and address or the information on your subscription label. Single copies of the magazine are also for sale through the app if you prefer to read EW that way. If you’re not a subscriber, but would like to become one, you can can do so by going to ew.com/allaccess.

Read More:

Album sales: Madonna’s ‘MDNA’ debuts at No. 1, Lionel Richie’s ‘Tuskegee’ lands in second

Album sales: Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Wrecking Ball’ finally knocks Adele’s ’21’ out of the top spot

Adele baby pictures revealed: See her rolling in the diapers

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