Once Again, Sade Has Something to Say and to Sing AboutAfter an eight-year absence, Sade has re-emerged with "Lovers Rock." Helen Folasade Adu, the lead vocalist, is still a smooth operator.
The album starts where she left off, with sultry ballads. The subject is simple: love.
Sade does not dazzle with a groundbreaking soul, or jazz, album. Sade dazzles with a voice that envelopes the senses in smooth cashmere. While the lyrics are important, the album in its entirety is more about sounds. A reggae rhythm drives many of the songs, creating a vision of the oceanside, of living in an ethereal moment. The opening song, "By Your Side," sets the mood. Sade may sing "Oh when you're cold/ I'll be there/ Hold you tight to me," but "By Your Side" is filled with unexpected warmth.
"Seventy percent of that song came in five minutes, straight out of the ether," she told Harper's Bazaar. Sade was recording in Spain, when Andrew Hale's melody on the keyboard caused Adu to say, "Just keep playing that" and start singing along.
One of the simplest songs is "The Sweetest Gift." Acc-ompanied only by a guitar, Sade sings a lullaby to her daughter, 4-year-old Ila.
While most of the songs are about love, Sade explores other topics with "Slave Song" and "Immigrant."
Colored similarly to Bob Marley's "Redemption Song," "Slave Song" is powerful in its sadness and strength. The song begins with percussions, creating a sense of urgency that is tempered by Sade's voice. She sings, "I see them gathered see/ them on the shore/ I turned to look once more/ And he knows me not/ takes me to the belly/ of darkness," and "Teach my beloved children/ who have been enslaved/ to reach for the light continually."
For "Immigrant," Sade drew on a memory of her father from when she was a child. Her father is Nigerian and her mother is English. She sings, "Coming from where he did/ He was turned away from/ each door like Joseph," and "He didn't know what it was/ to be black/ 'til they gave him his change/ but didn't want to touch/ his hand."
Born in Nigeria in 1959, Sade moved to England with her mother when her parents separated. Her singing career began as a favor to friends whose band needed a vocalist. She made a mark as a singer, joined a group called Pride, then left to create Sade.
She was a music icon of the 1980s. When Epic released "Diamond Life," singles such as "Smooth Operator" and "Your Love is King" made her debut album a top seller.
"Promise" followed in 1985 with "Stronger than Pride" in 1988, then "Love's Deluxe" in 1992 with the hit single "No Ordinary Love." The next album in 1994, "Best Of," was a compilation.
Sade has become synonymous with Adu, but Sade － from the last syllable of Folasade － is also a band. The line-up for "Lovers Rock" is the same as on the previous album, "No Ordinary Love." Stuart Matthewman is on guitar and woodwinds, Mr. Hale is on keyboards, Paul Denman is on bass. The main difference in instruments is that in "No Ordinary Love," Mr. Matthewman played the saxophone. The other members have made music without Adu under the name Sweetback.
Considering that Sade's last studio album was made in 1992, the wait for "Lovers Rock," distributed in Korea by Sony Music Entertainment, has been long. The reason is that Sade creates music only when she has something to say, according to a review by Wall of Sound.
This album also took unusually long to finish because of her commitment to her daughter. She told Harper's Bazaar, "Before having Ila, I would go into the studio and stay there until the album was finished. But having her changed things."
While the songs in her latest album are trademark Sade, their minimalist vision is fresh when compared to mainstream pop groups. The wait was worth the while.
by Joe Yong-hee