50 Best Singles of 2011

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Adele, 'Rolling in the Deep'
Paul Bergen/Redferns1/50

1. Adele, 'Rolling in the Deep'

The biggest hit from the biggest album of the year is a breakup scorcher to beat all breakup scorchers, with Adele slinging bolts of regretful scorn amid gospel-tinged stomp and a gaggle of soul-sister backup singers. This is brokenhearted music that makes you feel like taking on the world – crackling with quiet menace in the intro, then slowly building to that gut-punch refrain of "We could have had it all!" How did such an old-school soul song dominate the charts next to Gaga and Katy Perry? Maybe it's the hint of hip-hop venom you hear amid the blues-steeped storminess when Adele tells her ex-lover she'll "lay your shit bare." Maybe it's that certain emotions – especially when channeled through a voice this powerful – will always seem timeless.

Barry Walters' Original Review: Adele's 'Rolling in the Deep'
Photos: Choice Excerpts From Adele's Cover Story

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