Adele won the Biggest Album of 2021 contest with her comeback 30 (Columbia).
But, as we know, Ed Sheeran is an unstoppable force when it comes to streaming. Therefore, music week can reveal that the = album by Sheeran (Asylum/Atlantic) has now overtaken Adele’s album in terms of UK sales, based on the latest data from the Official Charts Company.
Now ahead of Adele’s 30 at the top of the 2020s album sales chart, Ed Sheeran’s= is on 732,425 sales to date (including 338,401 physical copies, 45,047 downloads and 348,997 from streams). It is No. 3 for the sixth straight week on the weekly chart.
Adele’s 30 is on 731,414 sales to date (including 492,486 physical copies, 60,778 downloads and 178,150 streaming).
Both albums were released in the fourth quarter of 2021 and ended the year as the two biggest sellers. Adele was in the lead last year based on sales of just six weeks; Sheeran ranked No. 2 overall based on nine-week drinking in 2021.
To recap, Ed Sheeran’s= was released on October 29, 2021 and ranked #1 the following week with sales of 139,107 (including 94,527 physical and 25,286 streaming).
Adele’s 30 was released on November 19, 2021 and landed at No. 1 the following week with a massive 261,856 sales (including 176,421 physical copies and 44,190 streaming). It outperformed ABBA’s first week sales in the same month and immediately topped Sheeran’s = (then on 253,736 sales after three weeks).
After its chart debut, Adele’s 30 became the biggest album of the year in a fortnight (ahead of Olivia Rodrigo’s Sour) and never lost its lead for the rest of 2021. However, Sheeran and Adele albums have suffered compared to the massive sales of their predecessors (= was the direct sequel to the 2017 blockbuster ÷), perhaps largely due to the shift from a sales model to a consumer model.
Sheeran’s album performance in 2022 – including a return to No. 1 in January and February – was key to its overall success. Of his four weeks at the top, two have been this year; Adele’s five weeks at No. 1 were all in 2021.
With 21 weeks in the Top 3 in 2022, Sheeran’s= has added 299,930 sales this year (77.2% of streaming), compared to Adele’s 131,357 (60.9% of streaming). Halfway through the year, Sheeran’s= was No. 1 (it has since been overtaken by Harry Styles), while Adele’s 30 was No. 4 overall.
Of course, Sheeran is a productive artist in terms of singles releases and collaborations, which has helped keep the album=s momentum going into 2022. Ed Sheeran has 81.6 million monthly Spotify listeners, up from 42 .2 million for Adele.
Unusually, Sheeran currently has no Top 20 hits, but there are still seven Top 75 entries for him (three as a lead artist by chart rules, plus four as a featured artist ). With the collaboration of Russ Are You Entertained, Sheeran and his team at Atlantic recorded his 66th hit last week. After 31 weeks of the past year, Sheeran has already spent 152 weeks in the Top 75, bringing his career total to 1,344 – the most of any artist in chart history.
But who leads the sales of combined albums between Ed Sheeran and Adele? Across studio album releases, Music Week can reveal Adele leads with 12,493,940 sales across four LPs, compared to Ed Sheeran’s 12,053,318 across five.
The breakdown is below:
Adele – 19 (2,550,476)
Adele – 21 (5,381,393)
Adele – 25 (3,830,657)
Adele – 30 (731,414)
Ed Sheeran -+ (2,671,045)
Ed Sheeran -x (3,768,100)
Ed Sheeran -÷ (3,948,680)
Ed Sheeran – Collaborative project n° 6 (933 131)
Ed.Sheean -= (732,425)
The Adele campaign will likely be revived with a bigger physical push later this year. She also has the Las Vegas dates rescheduled (November 2022 to March 2023) to help re-promote 30.
Besides the rivalry between the two major artists, it’s also an impressive result for British music with almost 1.5 million UK sales of the two albums in just nine months.
Harry Styles completes the trinity of UK talent with Harry’s House as the current No. 1 album of 2022. Styles’ third LP is now platinum with sales of 304,214 since its release in April.
With physical sales during gift season and potential deluxe editions yet to come, it sets up a fascinating three-way battle between the three British superstars for the rest of the year.