Sade: Soldier of Love

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Posted September 13, 2010 by J Matthew Cobb in Reviews 1.0

Posh, laidback sounds, serenading adult contemporary and some adventurous soul marks the return of Sade

Taking extreme lengthy breaks in between albums seems to be a rewarding process for music pros. Bon Jovi, KISS did it. So did Maxwell, who released his first installment to a three-year trilogy deal in 2009. They have been the beneficiaries of an outpouring of love and support from their faithful fans and music critics alike. Sade, a band led by the gorgeous Helen Folasade Adu best known for capturing the attention of adult contemporary lovers with their seductive sophisti-pop hits “Smooth Operator” and “The Sweetest Taboo,” has become world icons; selling well over 50 million albums since their breakout 1985 debut. And remarkably with a history of waiting a few years in between album releases, they still manage to gravitate listeners into their grown-folks balladry and hypnotic arrangements with Love Deluxe and 2000’s Lovers Rock. After a ten-year absence, love remains the focus of attention as Sade releases their latest work of art Soldier of Love.

The album hints at familiar musical approaches but also experiments with a harder, tougher organic drive, best experimented on the title cut. “Soldier of Love” is a song that manages to bring war-like elements and even the tango into her description of a merciless world waging war against her pursuit to reach love’s nirvana (“It’s the wild, wild west/Trying my hardest/Doing my best to stay alive”). The hard drum beats and the hard guitar riffs, echoing the marching of military troops, are probably the hardest rhythms to ever hit a Sade record, but her signature vocals – rendered so tender and calmly against the raging fires of the background – prove to be a rewarding combination to a song that exposes the dynamics of both worlds: Sade, a fighter for love, and the coldless world. It might sound like a Timbaland production on the surface, but it’s still a Sade record. Its twin sister, “Skin,” echoes a breezy drum instrumentation that fits appropriately in modern R&B and classic soul formats.

Much of the album seeps into a dark closet of heartache and recovery, easily captured on “Long Hard Road” and “Bring Me Home.” While former albums focused on string-laden, synth-driven experiments, much of Solider of Love focuses on organic instrumentation to create an isolated production that hearkens Sade’s newfound choice to focus on the weariness of adult life and heartbreak. Even at the close of the CD age and now entering the MP3 age, Sade bows out early with only ten tracks, as if she’s still releasing 12″ vinyl copies to the masses. But Sade keeps the content of the album interesting, due to an impressive band and Adu’s hypnotic vocals. “In Another Time” is an acoustic performance worthy of praise for its encouraging lyrical timbre, lifting up the downtrodden head of a girl wounded by the world, while exercising a soulful gospel sound reminiscent of Aretha’s Atlantic sides.

“Babyfather,” encountered with a sweet reggae tinge and a warming lyric about a father’s love for his son, is one of the blooming flowers on the album. It sparkles with brightness and optimism, in the midst of a record that feels a bit too eerie and lonely. The title of the song itself is a smart, creative jewel – shattering the depressing stereotype about men who fail to man up to their fatherly duties. Today’s culture uses the urban term “baby-daddy” so much that now being a “daddy” can also mean that a father was never there at all. Sade rewrites the cultural history book and gives hope to one of today’s dreadful social challenges.

Besides taking a darker direction than former records, Sade takes on a bit more risks than before. There’s more live instrumentation that before, the mood gets moodier and the lyrics are more mature. Sade’s audience now encompasses those that grew up with her debut and those that love her romantic and sexy approach to R&B and soul. Some will probably feel claustrophobic within the four walls of Soldier of Love due to its lack of lover-to-lover romance, but most will welcome Sade back with open arms. It’s a fitting return with a curious update of the times done with laidback grooves and fresh subject content.

J MATTHEW COBB

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HIFI DETAILS

  • Release Date: 09 Feb 2010
  • Label: Epic
  • Producers: Sade
  • Track Favs: Soldier of Love, Babyfather, In Another Time


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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