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4 numbers that explain Adele's total dominance of the music industry

Adele, looking down at you from atop her throne of multi-platinum albums.
Adele, looking down at you from atop her throne of multi-platinum albums.

As prophesied in the book of Pop Music Revelations, Adele's 25 is out and has fully taken over the world. And there's nothing any leaks can do about it.

The comeback album emerges four years after 21, her last release, which smashed records, garnered numerous awards, and sponsored countless breakup recoveries. However anxious Adele's fans were for new music, though, they can't possibly rival the music industry's excitement over her return. The internet introduced myriad ways to listen and own music — not all of them legal — but Adele's soulful torch songs have buoyed her beyond the industry's reduced expectations.

To explain what, exactly, that means, here are four major numbers that make Adele such a formidable artist.

11.2 million: Number of 21 albums sold in the United States

When you factor in the rest of the world, 21 sold more than 30 million albums.

There are a few things that make these numbers notable. First and foremost, buying actual albums has become an anomaly — yet Adele managed to sell almost as many albums in 2011 as fellow belter Celine Dion did for her smash hit album Falling Into You in 1996.

But Dion recorded in an era when albums that sold that many copies were far more common. (There were three by women artists alone in 1995, for instance.) That's no longer true now. If you take into account the rise of streaming (which isn't counted in album sales), Adele's numbers would far surpass Dion's.

Adele still dominates when you stack her up against her contemporaries. Taylor Swift, for example, sold 3.66 million copies of 1989 in the US last year. In 2011 alone, Adele sold over 2 million more, with 5.82 million.

The easiest explanation for Adele's success in album sales is that, quite simply, her fan base is not just broader but older. "A lot of her following is older than Taylor Swift's," Rolling Stone editor Anthony DeCurtis recently told USA Today, "and they are people who will buy a CD or download a record," as opposed to listening on Spotify or another streaming service.

1.1 million: Number of digital single copies "Hello" sold in its first week

In a continuing theme, though, Adele's huge numbers hold up across platforms. When "Hello" was released, it sold 1.1 million single copies online. As Fusion's Kelsey McKinney points out, "This is far and away the highest number of singles sold in the digital era."

The closest contender for that honor is Flo Rida, whose 2009 single "Right Round" sold 636,000 digital copies its first week out of the gate. It's just not even close.

23.2 million: Number of YouTube views "Hello" got in its first 24 hours

The second "Hello" was released on YouTube, an avalanche of GIFs, memes, and requests for "Hotline Bling" mashups flooded the internet. In fact, the "Hello" video was watched on YouTube 1.6 million times an hour. (The first full Star Wars trailer, by contrast, peaked at 1.2 million an hour.) Adele also set a new 24-hour record on Vevo, where "Hello" got more than 27 million views.

To put this in perspective: Adele's 23.2 million YouTube views in a day beat out Taylor Swift's 20.1 million in a day — and that was for the celebrity-studded revenge fantasy of "Bad Blood." Adele, by contrast, just stood in a bunch of swirling leaves and belted her face off. But that was enough for her fans, starved for a new Adele song to wail in the shower.

22.2: Number of miles the first shipment of 25 albums would reach into the sky if they were all stacked on top of each other

Anticipating Adele fever — and counting on her ability to move physical albums like no one else — Columbia Records shipped out 3.6 million albums to retailers. (The last album to ship a larger number was NSYNC's No Strings Attached, which had 4.2 million sent out in 2002.)

Sony Music is currently projecting that 25 will sell at least 1.5 million copies in its first week alone — a goal it's even more likely to meet now that it's been confirmed the album will not be available for streaming this week.

Fusion's McKinney did some slick math and figured out that if you stacked all 3.6 million copies of 25 that were shipped out on top of each other, they would tower 22.2 miles into the sky — four times the height of Mount Everest.

We can debate whether 25 signals the triumphant return of Adele as an artist — the album doesn't sound all that different from 21, after all — but there's no doubt that it is, at the very least, a triumphant moment for the music industry at a time when it desperately needs it.