By Sasha White
During the past few months I, like many, have been in search of musical solace: here, enter Sade. The captivating Nigerian-born British singer and her eponymous band have provided many moments of peace, quiet and clarity during the uncertainty and turbulence of a third lockdown. Combining soul, smooth jazz and sophisticated pop, Sade provide aurally exquisite sounds which enrich any listener’s day-to-day experience.
I first discovered Sade when a close friend recommended the undeniably catchy ‘Smooth Operator’ a couple of years ago. I then went through a dry spell and shamefully forgot all about them until I was helping my mum clear out the attic last spring and found heaps of records from the 70s and 80s. Among the likes of Eagles' Desperado and The Police’s Ghost in the Machine, was Sade’s Diamond Life - apparently the soundtrack to my mum’s 20s! On her suggestion, I took the album for a spin and have been listening to it ever since. I have to give credit where it is due and say that my mum has excellent taste in music.
Released in 1984, Diamond Life was a critical and commercial success winning Album of the Year at the Brit Awards in 1985 and generating hit singles including ‘Your Love is King’, ‘When Am I Going to Make a Living’ and ‘Smooth Operator’. This album undoubtedly redefined and transported jazz-inspired music into the zeitgeist.
While it is easy to bask in the sheer excellence of Sade’s first album, it is important to draw attention to their sophomore album Promise. Despite the commercial success of the album, it still faced some harsh critical reviews which overlooked its intricacy and innovation. Two of my favourite Sade tracks - ‘Is It a Crime’ and ‘Punch Drunk’ - are on Promise. The contrast between the epic chorus and mellow verses on ‘Is It a Crime’ render it a completely fascinating, joyful and engaging six-and-a-half minutes. Romantic indulgence permeates this track (nowhere is this more obvious than in the lyrical passion of the chorus: ‘My love is wider, wider than Victoria Lake / My love is taller, taller than the Empire State / It dives, it jumps and it ripples like the deepest ocean / I can’t give you more than that, surely you want me back’), yet Sade manages to create a subtle balance between crescendo and diminuendo which make it absolutely unforgettable. No wonder the late, great rapper MF Doom cited Sade as a huge influence and sampled this song on ‘Kon Karne’ from 2004’s MM...FOOD. The instrumental ‘Punch Drunk’, though, is the track that really made me fall in love with Sade. It is incredibly difficult to maintain a listener’s attention for five-and-a-half minutes without lyrics, yet the smooth interplay of piano and saxophone offer a seductive and utterly wonderful sonic affair.
Sade’s music captures the romance of life in a whole new light and remains timeless through its delightful combination of nostalgia, hope and love. With the easing of lockdown restrictions and warmer, brighter days ahead, I hope that Sade’s music will charm its way into many a new listener’s Spotify playlist - where it rightfully deserves to be.
Other un-mentioned favourites:
‘The Sweetest Taboo’
‘Kiss of Life’