Friday, April 7, 2017

Best Songs: Pearls by Sade

So continues my list of serious, quiet, and sad songs from female artists.  Maybe it's just one leading to another but I do seem to be stuck on a trend here.

This song comes from Sade's brilliant 1992 album Love Deluxe.  The particular video here is taken from the live video from the Love Deluxe tour.  At the end of this entry I'll include the other two live videos of the same song from her next two tours.  All are very good though this performance is done at the peak of her abilities.

Let's start first with Sade Adu as a singer.  This is a brilliant performance, whether you are talking about the live performance or the album performance.  It really shows off Sade as a vocal performer.  The emotion she brings to the song, the power of her voice.  I think it's easy to write off Sade as simply a performer with her looks and her sound and not realize that she is an excellent singer.

This song also shows off Sade as a lyricist.  The imagery is quite good of this woman picking up grains of rice along the road side and wrapping them up to carry home to her child.  The lyrics are also touchingly harsh.  "This is how she's dying, she's dying to survive."  And then on top of all that we get this very odd thought.  "She lives in a world she didn't choose, and it hurts like brand new shoes."

OK let's think about that for a moment.  When we think of someone fighting to survive.  When we think about a child dying of starvation we don't think about things like brand new shoes.  But the voice of the singer in this instance is someone looking at this woman and thinking about her situation.  Someone like you and me not someone like her.  The singer says, "Don't know what she's made of, I would like to be that brave," and "The same sky we lay under, burns her to the bone."  And so what I think is so interesting in this choice of choosing the new shoes is that it is something we can all relate to, but it feels like an experience that is so incredibly removed from the plight of this woman.

Maybe one of the questions we have to ask is who did choose this world for her?  Who chose this world where she's dying to survive, and where she will spend her whole life never feeling like she fits in.  Never finding that comfort that so many of us enjoy in our lives.  Maybe I'm reading too much into these words but I think there is a lot there besides just an odd metaphor.

The most powerful lyric is an image that I wonder about.  "She cries to the heaven above, there is a stone in my heart."  I have never heard the phrase "a stone in my heart," but I'm assuming it means a pain, a dead spot, something along those lines.  This brave woman who is dying to survive.  Who is scraping pearls by the roadside so she can feed her child, and who will never fit into this world she didn't choose.  This woman cries to heaven and expresses her own grief.  There is something powerfully sad about this image to me.

All in all this song is simple and very powerful.  The melody is beautiful and the vocal performance is probably the best of Sade's career.  I'm guessing this is one reason it has been in all three of her live concert films.

1 comment:

  1. My word, that is just a great point about the shoes, and I would've never thought of it in that way.

    I don't know this song, but your description of it makes me think it's like Sade writing about the protagonist in this Nina Simone song.