Once a ”Smooth Operator,” now a Soldier of Love: After 25 years, has Sade finally allowed global events to sour the avant-soul outfit that bears her name? Nah. Beyond the surprisingly hard-thumping title track, the group’s first album since 2000’s Lovers Rock sticks faithfully to the lush quiet-storm sound that’s influenced younger artists from Maxwell to Everything but the Girl. Given the singer’s still-incredible voice — imagine the world’s sexiest yoga instructor leading an epic om — that lack of evolution hardly presents a problem.
Sade Adu battles her heart on band’s sixth album It’s been a decade since R&B mainstay Sade—the band fronted by namesake Sade Adu—dropped its last album, Lovers Rock, and before that the band took eight years off between releases. In pop time, that’s several generations. The lengthy interval hasn’t dampened the group’s appeal; it’s made it seem even more mysterious and alluring.
Even back in 1984, Sade always sounded more mature than the vast majority of radio R&B. Beautiful vocalist and band namesake Sade Adu shunned octave-jumping athleticism for quiet restraint, and her band always favoured their own rock-solid mellow grooves over imitations of momentary trends. However, unlike most adult contemporary soul, Sade's music somehow managed to embody an elusive coolness that's helped their catalogue age remarkably well.
It begins with a mournful guitar melody. The notes float over strings and waves of ambient tones. A high-pitched keyboard whistle is delicately brushed into the soundscape. The bass dips and locks into a deep, slowly undulating rhythm. Then, that unmistakable voice peers through, like amber ….
It was probably too much to ask for an entire Sade album that sounds like it was produced by Timbaland and Portishead, because that’s the only way to describe the title track from the band’s first record in 10 years. Their best single since their best single, “Ordinary Love,” “Soldier of Love” is an anthem that, after a decade of public silence, find’s lead singer and namesake Sade Adu’s reliably supple voice hardened by bitterness and frayed by time (even her seemingly ageless face finally shows signs of wear in the music video). The six-minute “Soldier” is the band’s most aggressive track to date, a stately trumpet declaring war on behalf of wounded lovers everywhere, Sade intoning robotically atop a military march: “I’ve lost the use of my heart, but I’m still alive.
"Inimitable" isn't the first word that comes to mind when discussing Sade, but it's next to impossible to name another millions-selling pop act that sounds anything like them. (And, yes, Sade are a band.) In the mid-1980s, before hip-hop and R&B became inexplicably twinned, the band helped to define the quiet storm era, when smooth grooves aimed at grown-ups were still a legitimate mainstream phenomenon. In 2010, Sade seems wholly unique.
Music has changed immeasurably since Sade released her debut album in 1984, but she has glided along, oblivious, never diverging from her unruffled, silk-lined pop-soul style. Soldier of Love, only her sixth album (and first in a decade), has the usual hallmarks – lushness and understatement, balanced by lyrics of surprising transparency, and few signs of engagement with the rest of the pop world. The only evidence the record was made this century is the title track's skittering electronic beat, yet it never feels retro – perhaps because Sade sings as if the songs mean a good deal to her.
Sixth album of down-tempo RnB from hermetic soulstress. Paul Lester 2010 She’s a virtual recluse, refuses to give interviews, and releases albums rarely: in some ways, Sade is the Kate Bush of mellow soul, or M.O.RnB if you will. Soldier of Love is her first album since 2000’s Lovers Rock, and it is hardly less feverishly anticipated than Bush’s last opus, maybe more so in America, where she has a better rep – in Britain she is often dismissed as dinner party jazzy soul muzak.