Sade – Lovers Rock

[This CD review was first published in Kansai Scene magazine.]


It’s been some time since we heard from Sade – eight years in fact, so this release is almost a comeback for her. Our waiting has not been in vain. This return proves her to be much more than a passenger from the 1980’s.

It is mainly her distinctive and very recognizable voice that makes Sade’s music worth listening to. On the evidence of this CD Ms Helen Folasade Adu (original name) sounds stronger, more mature and the mixtures of her African/north London background come through nicely.

The music that supports her is also better than might be expected, though it never obscures the fact that Sade is the vehicle for carrying the song. This combination at times sounds similar to British Duo ‘Everything But The Girl’, or a kind of Anglo hip-hop. There is also a slight reggae feel to a couple of tracks. (Lovers Rock refers to an emotional “anchor” rather than the style of music that Sade has produced here.)

The production is pleasingly sparse and benefits greatly from the silky bass of Paul S. Denham and tastefully understated guitar, while the drum programming is done well enough to suggest human-driven beats.

One of the drawbacks is that most of the songs on this disc are the same slow pace. It could benefit from a couple of speedier tracks for the sake of variety of dynamics. To their credit however, Sade and her producer have not let any of the eleven songs drag on too long (as so many modern popsters posers do.) Averaging only four minutes each, this is a sensible and concise statement that is never pretentious.

A highlight is The Sweetest Gift, which is a beautiful and moving ballad of simplicity. On the whole, the first half of the CD makes it better than the average offering on the shelves.

(Will I ask some rhetorical questions now? Yes I will.) Does Sade have anything of substance to say though? Not really. With just two outstanding exceptions, her lyrics are about love and relationships and don’t add anything to what we’ve already heard on these themes a thousand times.

Personally though, with her voice Sade Abu could sing children’s nursery rhymes and I’d still probably enjoy it.

High points: Tracks 1,2,4,7.

Low points: Final track is a dull ending.

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