People had been awaiting the return of Nigerian-born British singer Sade Adu and her bandmates in very much the same way that they pined for fresh music from R&B/neo-soul’s prodigal son Maxwell. (The last time we heard from Sade was way back in 2000). Very few singers worth their props deliver soulful, moody treasures quite like Maxwell and Sade.
Now that the wait is over, fans have expressed their gratitude in the most easily appreciative way: flocking to record shops, online music outlets (like Amazon.com) and download sites (like iTunes) to get their Sade fix. Consequently, Sade’s new album, Soldier of Love, her sixth, has already sat atop the album charts for two consecutive weeks, with nearly 700,000 units sold.
A consummate artist, Sade consistently treats her listeners to smooth, hypnotic music, the kind that’s enough to feed mind, body, soul and spirit, while reaffirming the belief that music done the right way possesses healing properties. That she is seemingly unaffected by changes in taste and musical styles (throughout the decade of her absence) makes her all the more alluring.
Personally, there is no sexier record than “Smooth Operator” off the 1994 release Best of Sade. The Grammy-winning gem Lovers’ Rock (2000) still enhances bedroom bliss as an appropriate late night soundtrack. India Arie’s re-imagining of her stirring hit “Pearls” recently copped the Grammy for Best Urban/Alternative Performance and never fails to calm me with its deceptively tranquil vibe and emotional pull.
With Soldier of Love (Sony Records), Sade offers another potent and intoxicating elixir, ten soothing tracks that speak to the largely rewarding journey she’s been making since the mid-1980s. With its pulsating rhythm and beautiful lyrics, the lead single (and title track) is a clear winner from the get-go. “I’ve lost the use of my heart, but I’m still alive,” she sings in the opening line, perfectly summing up how many of us really feel about our existence in these times.
Each track has a relaxed, understated quality; collectively they have the clout to induce reflection while restoring much of the joy and spirituality that has gone out of contemporary ‘Black’ music. Though it is easy to mistake the album’s coherence and consistency for monotony, the tenderness of Sade’s mild contralto completely wins you over. Classic touches of elegance, gentle washes of percussion and unhurried arrangements lend a forceful kick to “Be That Easy,” “Long Road Home” and “In Another Time” – cuts that deserve repeated listens.
Simmering with positive reinforcements about love and sweet ambiguities about life, Soldier of Love offers a reminder that Sade is able to gather elements of jazz, R&B, samba, reggae and pop to craft a powerful statement record that not only showcases the singer’s coy, caressing voice, but serves as a perfect vessel for her exploration of trust, commitment and transition.
DOWNLOAD THIS: “Be That Easy”