Thursday, October 15, 2015

Musical Retrospective: Sade Part 1

The first thing that has to be noted about Sade is that Sade is a band not an individual artist.  I think it is easy to forget this fact since Sade Adu is the face, the voice, the person everyone thinks about when they hear Sade mentioned.  But it is a band and a band that has been together since 1982.  They have cycled through drummers, but the remainder of the band has stayed together for at least 30 years.  They last performed on a tour in 2012, who knows if we will ever hear from Sade again.  They have a tendency to disappear for years at a time.

Between 1984 and 2010 Sade put out six albums.  They all went platinum in the US and two of the albums went to number 1 in the US.  All of this and Sade never had a number 1 single.  That is in part I believe because right from the beginning Sade had their fans and their detractors.  I remember reading a piece in Rolling Stone, around 1986, where the writer said he went to go see Sade expecting to not like it.  And even though he still couldn't say he liked Sade he loved the show.  There are many people it seems to me who have a certain take on Sade that closes them off to actually listening to Sade and enjoying Sade.  Like they are too cool or too smart for something like Sade.  I think too many people look at Sade and only see Sade Adu and think well what do I need with a band that seems to just be built around a very attractive woman who sings about love.

The truth is of course there is much more to Sade than just love songs, and even their love songs can be quite interesting, but we can get into that as we discuss the albums in more detail.

The video for "Smooth Operator" splashed Sade on the scene. It is such a classic mid-80's video. Too bad the version that Vevo has doesn't include the exciting shoot out ending. They also had a video for "Your Love is King." In it we also see Sade as a lounge act. In all honesty at the time Sade didn't make a big impression on me that would happen with their second album.

Looking back on this first album now a few things stand out. One they were certainly not a traditional pop act, but the album does have a very mid-80's sound. It has a similar feel to a lot of the jazz inspired pop of that time period. From acts like Joe Jackson to Everything But the Girl, you can find very similar sounds. Also lyrically we see Sade exploring topics they will come back to time and time again. There is of course love, but also poverty, prostitution, and war. It's funny to think about a bunch of people seeing the video for "Smooth Operator" and buying the album to end up with a song like "Sally"
Sally, you opened out your arms to all those young men
And girl you had room for every one of them
You're the only girl on Barry and Third
Sure as hell you're the only one who cared

So put your hands together for Sally
She saved all those young men
Put your hands together for Sally
She's the one who cared for them

She's doing our dirty work
She's the only one who cares
Doing our dirty work
Thirsty world, one angry day in New York

Take a look at Dave he was once seventeen
Zoot suit and shiny shoes, he ran around town
And threw his metholated laughter
Most of his memories drowned

But he remembers what his mommy used to shout
She used to shout, one day surely son
The streets are gonna tire you out

So put your hands together for Sally
She's the one who cared for him
Put your hands together for Sally
She was there when his luck was running thin

Yes Sade was playing things like the Montreux Jazz festival back in 1984, and yes Sade had good success with their debut album. After all it went to number 5 on the US charts and went platinum in seven countries. That's a pretty good first act. Sade Adu was 25 when the band hit it big. The other members of the band were around the same age. As we've discussed on here many times 24 is often the peak point for artists and so this band had hit at the right time for all involved, the big question is could they get better. That would be answered with their next album Promise.

This is of course when Sade gave us two great songs, with two great videos that actually go together. This is when I got interested in Sade and bought this album, then immediately bought her first album. Promise is a huge step up from Diamond Life. The sound is much more polished. The songs are much better crafted as pop songs and though they still have components of jazz integrated into their sound, Sade is beginning to move more in the direction of R&B.

This album produced four songs which became standards for Sade: "Is It a Crime," "The Sweetest Taboo," "Jezebel," and "Never As Good As the First Time." It was also such a big hit that it got Sade invited to perform at Live Aid. That's where many of us learned that Sade was a real act.

After this success Sade would be quiet for three years and when they came back with their next album Stronger Than Pride it would be the beginning of a whole new chapter.

1 comment:

  1. I am thrilled to see that this is going to be a multi-part series!