It works for me, but I won’t guarantee the same for you.
Put on ‘The Best of Sade’ greatest hits album into a GOOD CD player, let the smooth silky jazz waft through the eardrums and a deliciously wicked grin would steal across my equally wicked face.
Sade (pronounced Shah-day) is one of my earliest influences at jazz. Her ubiquitous ‘Smooth Operator’ hit was an early favourite, long before I even recall hearing a note of Johann Strauss Jr nor any classical composers and also about 4 years away from my first Cantopop/Mandopop experience. So, it’s a pleasant and delightful lifelong acquaintance.
It is worth mentioning that although Sade (born Helen Folasade Adu in Ibadan, Nigeria 16th January 1959) heads her eponymous band, a solo singer does not a good band you make. I’m particularly impressed by the saxman Stuart Matthewman as is the other support staff who make up Sade as a band; Paul Spencer Denman and Andrew Hale who play bass and the keyboards respectively. These 4 make up the Sade we are familiar with today.
Not really an easy question; but I believe it’s the charm and the sexy, sultry voice of Sade which did the trick. I mean, how could a 4-year old kid without any early musical training understand and appreciate real jazz fusion or funk? So, it’s like ‘Smooth Operator x 10’ and you get the picture. And as a kid, I thought ‘Smooth Operator’ was a rather dark and brooding number which of course, in today’s perception would be missing the point entirely.
And I would never hear of Sade for about 15-17 years after that! Perhaps I didn’t really try hard to acquire Sade recordings or probably there was no such desire to hear Sade at that time. And when I went to the UK, I was literally desperate at finding Sade CDs at anywhere. The 18 quid tag was a stumbling block at first, but then the irresistible lure at unearthing more Sade gems to appraise got the better of me that time. Call it a childhood addiction.
And there was not a number in the ‘Best of Sade’ which I didn’t like. It had a sweet poignant sadness in the perceivably happier tracks such as ‘Kiss of Life’ and ‘Your Love is King’. Yet, it also had moments of curious optimism in the darker songs such as ‘Is it a Crime?’ and also ‘Jezebel’ and ‘Pearls’. The funky and infectious tunes of ‘Smooth Operator’, ‘Hang on to Your Love’, ‘The Sweetest Taboo’ and ‘Paradise’ are reasons why I consider Sade one of the more complete musical influences.
But most importantly, Sade’s music has helped me heal a great deal after a forgettable and injurious 2004 which gone due south since February that year; where nothing seemed right, where everything seemed to elude your grasp and you even abhor at the slightest thought of the biggest mistakes you might ever commit in your life and cost a lot materially and all that the soul is willing to give but ended up totally empty-handed. To that end, the rare optimism and the infectious, poignant jazzy tracks are great soul-searching music. Maybe it was predestined to work for me as I claw my way back to where I rightfully belong to; maybe I was just getting the right dose of the correct influences which I needed, but I reckon it difficult without Sade’s soulful tunes to immerse into and allow the mind be swayed into the right direction.
Why not Sade?
Indeed; all great things have its flaws. Sade is one of them. Their lyrics can sometimes border on the banal, whereas at times, the same lyrics can be rather out of place if you think about it. Then a music confidante told me rather seriously that ‘to appreciate jazz and most types of soul, the voice is a great instrument. Listen to the voice as an instrument and you’ll see the picture. Above all, don’t analyse music. They sound right when our mood is too’. That explains why our favourite song sometimes sound so lethargic when we listen to them after a truly sucky day.
If there’s another complaint; it’s because this band does not write enough to satiate their fans. Their careful music crafting (they produce so little albums despite their fame as their credo is not to write music for the sake of writing it.) coupled with their high professionalism towards their image as a group meant that whatever they could offer now could be their last as a band. That’s sad to know. On the other hand, at the bright side, this means that you can expect the same Sade trademark and signature style in every piece which they churn out and do it in good stride. And ‘King of Sorrow’ is a beautiful number; sad and reflective. As if life is not so.
Recommended Songs from ‘The Best of Sade’:
Beginners:- Anyone may listen to these without fear of being bored silly or being moved to tears at how soulful it is!
1. Smooth Operator – Easily the most recognisable song of the band. I’m still crazy about it now as I did 20 years ago.
2. Your Love is King – Easy on the ears; jazzy, carefree and optimistic. The usual feel good song.
3. The Sweetest Taboo – Some say the ‘taboo’ means ‘sex’ but I don’t like to over-analyse anything as that’s too juvenile.
Another easy-going and beat-driven number.
4. Please Send Me Someone to Love – Cheeky and relaxed song. Easy to digest.
5. Kiss of Life – My favourite Sade song now! Beautiful, relaxed, yet there’s a discernible sadness and poignancy somewhere.
IMO, the complete Sade song.
6. Hang on To Your Love – A driven number, stylish and reminiscent of 80s dance.
Casual Jazz Lovers: – Not strictly for jazz fans per se; in fact beginners to Sade may explore these after familiarising with the above. This is just a suggestion. They are equally as beautiful as any Sade ever wrote.
1. Paradise – same tempo as ‘Sweetest Taboo’ and equally engaging.
2. Nothing can Come Between Us – ditto above. Can get quite repetitive but such is life.
3. Cherish the Day – Quite a reflective number and need some serious effort to listen. Otherwise, quite a pleasant ride.
4. Love is Stronger than Pride – Actually sounded pretty mediocre to me but a few tries at it won’t exactly hurt.
Jazz Lovers: – This is just a guideline. Accessible to some; impenetrable for others. They sound lovely to me all the same.
1. Is it a Crime? – Wonderful reflective piece. The jazz middle section lends a sense of completeness to the music.
2. Jezebel – Sad, sad, sad piece.
3. Pearls – Sad, sad , sad song.
4. Never as Good as the First Time – Okay song. Great instrumentation anyways.
5. Like a Tattoo – Another sad song. Reflective and plaintive.
After another bad day at work, after another scuffle with not so pleasant colleagues who won’t even let you see their point of view, Sade’s music allows you to escape the rigours of the day.
Just one rule of the thumb- don’t over-analyse Sade’s songs or any jazz music in particular as you will come away sorely disappointed as it’s probably not meant to be that way. Go with the flow and you’ll enjoy it like you never thought you might.