Review Summary: Good background music for a cozy night at a beach house with your lover.Sade: The Band and the Woman
Part I: Diamond Life
No place for beginners or sensitive heart
No sentiment left to chance.
No place to be ending but somewhere to start
No need to ask.
He's a smooth operator,
If these lyrics seem familiar to you, and yet you never knew until now that they were the work of Sade Adu and her band, you’re not alone. Yours truly had listened to this song several times on the radio, but didn’t know who was responsible for it until a few years back. I first learned of Sade through Pandora (I’d made a radio station for Seal, and she popped up). After looking up her hits in YouTube, voila, I finally get to know who sings the song (and, by the way, I didn’t even know what the song was about until that time).
The truth is, Sade is probably one of the most overlooked artists of the 80’s and 90’s. But there’s no need to pity her: according to RIAA, all her studio albums up to Lovers Rock
have accomplished multi-platinum status (not counting live albums and compilations). Indeed, she has been successful both artistically and commercially, while at the same time she has avoided the controversies typical of pop phenomena such as Michael Jackson, Madonna or Prince. Such a combination of commercial success and low media exposure is indeed a luxury of few. As to her influences, it is stated in the band’s official site that: “She listened to American soul music, particularly the wave led in the 1970's by artists such as Curtis Mayfield, Donny Hathaway, and Bill Withers. As a teenager, she saw the Jackson 5 at the Rainbow theatre in Finsbury Park, where she worked behind the bar at weekends.”. This explains why her band’s sound would lean mostly towards R&B.
In 1984, Sade released her debut, with Your Love is King
and Smooth Operator
being the leading singles. Other prominent tracks include Frankie’s First Affair
and Hang On to Your Love
. As the song titles imply, relationships (both positive and negative) are the dominant subject matter here (When Am I Going to Make a Living
is an exception, since it deals more with the hustle and bustle of everyday life). But this isn’t to say, in any sense, that the album is cheesy. Instead, the music, as well as the lyrics, feels honest and deep. The only negative thing that can be said about the album is that it can feel slightly dull and tiresome for some in the second half, more so if you’re not a jazz, soul or blues fan.
Throughout the album, jazzy textures predominate; these gravitate around Sade’s voice. This isn’t at all a bad thing, since the instruments mix well with it, providing quite a refreshing experience. The basslines are very audible, the drumbeats go along smoothly, and the guitar flows in a similar manner. The brass instruments and keyboards also contribute well to the overall sound. While it’s the reviewer’s view that this isn’t Sade’s best album, it’s a great place to start, as well as good background music for a cozy night at a beach house with your lover.