Friday, October 16, 2015

Musical Retrospective: Sade Part 2

Let's take a look at the top 10 songs of 1988.

1. Faith by George Michael
2. Need You Tonight by INXS
3. Got My Mind Set On You by George Harrison
4. Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley
5. Sweet Child O' Mine by Guns N' Roses
6. So Emotional by Whitney Houston
7. Heaven is a Place on Earth by Belinda Carlisle
8. Could've Been by Tiffany
9. Hands to Heaven by Breathe
10. Roll With It by Steve Winwood

You can listen to the top 25 from 1988 here, except for "Got My Mind Set On You" which isn't available.

The thing is if you listen to that top 25 and then you watch this video, well Sade came out with an album in 1988 that was ahead of its time.

Their third album Stronger Than Pride was a complete change of pace for the band. In their first two albums they wrote long lyrical songs, with complex constructs. The melodies were becoming more prevalent on Promise, but the beats were only there on a few songs. For Stronger Than Pride we get a completely different take on songs. I don't know what their songwriting was like, but either someone came up with a catchy lyric or a catchy beat and then the rest was constructed it around it. The songs are simple, beat heavy, melodic, and more importantly consistent. Stronger Than Pride from start to finish is a mood. It flows perfectly from song to song and is their first album that feels like it was constructed to be a complete album instead of a collection of songs.

In some ways it shouldn't be surprising that this was their worst selling album in the US.  It really feels out of time when you hear it in relation to the other popular music at the time.  But four years later when Love Deluxe hit the world was ready.

Sade took off four years then returned with Love Deluxe.  During that time a lot had changed.  Here were the top five songs in 1992.

1. End Of the Road by Boyz II Men
2. Baby Got Back by Sir Mix-a-Lot
3. Jump by Kris Kross
4. Save the Best for Last by Vanessa Williams
5. Baby-Baby-Baby by TLC

This is all R&B or hip-hop and so the world had shifted and the beats and melodies Sade rolled out with Love Deluxe were welcomed.

Don't get me wrong this album didn't sell a ton more than Stronger Than Pride, but there was a certain acceptance of Sade with this album that had never been there before.  She put on a massive tour for Love Deluxe, which I saw, and released a live video from the tour.  It was the right time and Sade had hit it as big as they were ever going to hit it.  They also made the best album they would ever make at around age 33.

What makes this album really work is the fact that we have the wonderful beats and melodies that were so present on Stronger Than Pride, but with better more thoughtful songwriting like we had on earlier albums. We have songs on here about love, about war, about poverty.

I said at the beginning of all this that I would talk about Sade as a romantic songwriter. Sade is not a story teller. She's not a poet. What she is is blunt in a way that lyrically works very well. The key I think to Sade as a songwriter is that her lyrics are very straightforward. It's not symbolic, it's not hidden, it's pretty much laid out in front of you.

Here are some examples.

Bullet Proof Soul
I was so in love with you
You rarely see a love that true
Wasn't that enough for you?
Wasn't that enough for you?

I would climb a mountain
I wouldn't want to see you fall
Rock climb for you
And give you a reason for it all

You kept on thinking
You were the only one
Too busy thinking
Love is a gun

Hit me like a slow bullet
Like a slow bullet
It took me some time to realize it

Cherish the Day
You're ruling the way that I move
And I breathe your air
You only can rescue me
This is my prayer

If you were mine
If you were mine
I wouldn't want to go
To heaven

I cherish the day
I won't go astray
I won't be afraid
You won't catch me running
You're ruling the way that I move
You take my air
You show me how deep love can be

There is a woman in Somalia
Scraping for pearls on the roadside
There's a force stronger than nature
Keeps her will alive
This is how she's dying
She's dyin' to survive
Don't know what she's made of
I would like to be that brave

She cries to the heaven above
There is a stone in my heart
She lives a life she didn't choose
And it hurts like brand new shoes
Hurts like brand new shoes

This has always been Sade's approach lyrically. Very similar to the same voice that we heard in "Sally."  It's just that with the later albums the lyrics are even tighter, the songs tighter, the melodies more flowing. Love Deluxe is the peak of Sade and then Sade would disappear.

It would be eight years before they would return with Lovers Rock. Sade Adu was now 40. One thing that I admire about Sade is that their sound and songs mature well with their age. Lovers Rock is a solid album with not a bad note on it, but it is missing a bit of the life that Love Deluxe had. Maturity has a tendency to do that. Once again Sade is singing about love, war, and poverty. I really like the lyric for "Slave Song."

I pray to the Almighty
Let us not do as he has unto us
Teach my beloved children, I've been a slave
But reach for the light continually

Wisdom is the flame
Wisdom is the brave warrior
Who will carry us into the sun

This is the voice of a 40 year old.

Once again Sade had hit it big, put on a big tour, and released a live video.  But the band would once again disappear, this time for 10 years returning when Sade Adu was 50 with Soldier of Love.

At 50 and 30 years into their career Sade is a different band.  Musically they are still very strong and Sade Adu is solid on this album, but lyrically the songs are weaker and the energy has slipped out just that much more in a ten year absence.

Once again Sade put together a big tour and once again released a live video, and then once again Sade disappeared. Who knows if they will ever pop up again or not. Maybe at 60 we'll see them again, but a part of me thinks not. If you watch the live video from their last tour the best thing you'll see is that they never seemed to lose their love for performing and being a band. I'll leave you with this one last video of "Jezebel" from their last tour. I was glad to see they were still doing this song. Has to be the hardest song Sade Adu has to sing.


  1. I know this is pretty much impossible. But I looked up the video for "Could've Been" by Tiffany, and I don't know that I'd heard that thing more than once or twice before today.