She is a 52-year-old British singer who hadn't put out an album in ten years. And yet we all instantly recognize the name Sade.
No doubt, her enduring popularity is fueled by a few iconic 1980s hits. But over the years, she's cultivated a legion of loyal followers that follows every development of her slow-burning career, from this year's comeback album, Soldier of Love, to exceedingly rare interviews and once-a-decade international tours.
There's also the universal quality of silky jazz-pop stuff like "Smooth Operator." As a 2010 New York Times article on the Brit songstress noted: "Through a quarter-century of recording, Sade has heard regularly about how her songs' mixture of mourning and consolation have brought her fans comfort. 'If it's like a lighthouse to guide someone past the rocks, that's a great thing,' she said."
But we wondered, "Is this true? Is 'No Ordinary Love' really an emotional shelter from the storm of life? Or is everyone thinking about sex when they hear a Sade song?" So, in an attempt to penetrate the deeper truth of public opinion on Sade and her music, Crossfade spoke with a small group of six local men (half lovers, half haters) to find out whether the lady's music is actually a lighthouse or just a sexy sex house.
Alex B. is currently a super big fan, although he wasn't always one. As he's gotten older, his love has grown.
Alesh H. told Crossfade, "I don't consider myself a fan," before explaining why he's a fan.
Arturo F. is the only member of the roundtable who listens to Soldier of Love on his iPod.
Nick R. doesn't consider himself a hater in any sense of the word. But he has an enduring distaste for Sade's music.
John Pablo P. is a pure hater.
Tommy H. can be considered a hater. But it isn't that Tommy doesn't like Sade. He just doesn't like her recent music.
Not So Bad
Crossfade: Most people like Sade. Why?
Nick R.: I think the music itself is good. She has a nice voice and good sax. Everybody wants good sax. In the '80s, I had no love for Sade at all. Now I can at least appreciate her voice, and the music to a lesser extent.
Alex B.: It's not pop. It's not forced down your throat like a Britney Spears song or Christina Aguilera. It's relaxing music that you can play in a multitude of different environments. She's definitely got one of those sounds that's an acquired taste. I know it sounds corny, but it's like a fine wine or something. I didn't really become a fan until I saw her in concert.
Alesh H.: A lot of the R&B, especially in the '80s, was musically sophisticated in terms of the musical structures and the chords and stuff. Unlike a lot of the singers, she was involved in the songwriting and the composition.
Arturo F.: Her music is not overpowering. But it's pleasing. And it's true.
It's safe to say that the lady's glory years were the 1980s. But how about her '90s and 2000s stuff? Love it or leave it?
Nick R.: Sade keeps whining. She's been whining since the '80s.
Alex B.: There are more forceful drum lines on the new album. But it still plays to the original equation that made her so appealing on her first couple of albums.
Tommy H.: [The recent music has] more production value than really needs to be there and less of the soulful groove that really made her popular. The essence of her... I think she hits on it every once in awhile. She lets go, loosens up, and she'll have one descent song for every eight or nine songs. So, every album will have maybe one good song.
Arturo F.: Her voice hasn't changed in 25 years. She's similar to Kool and the Gang, if you like one of their songs, you like all of their songs. It's not "Jungle Boogie," but it's still pretty good.
Can You Feel Me Now
There's no debating the fact that Sade's music is very pleasant and pretty. But how does it make you feel?
John Pablo P.: Like I have butterflies in my booty.
Nick R.: Sade tells you it's OK to be sad and obsessive. I think she sends a crappy message to people. I understand it's good to commiserate with people so they don't feel like they're the only ones who feel depressed. But Sade offers no relief. [She says], "It is just the way it is. So be sad, because romantic love is the only way to find happiness." That's bullshit.
Arturo F.: Her tour should be sponsored by Ambien and Four Loko. The Ambien-Four Loko world tour, you're asleep and awake at the same time. But really, Sade couldn't be more dynamic. Half the time you think she's going to fall asleep while singing. She's soothing and sexy at the same time.
Recently, a lot of concert reviewers have obsessed over how nice Sade still looks at 52. Shouldn't it be about the music?
Nick R.: Oh, Sade ... She's hot. That's pretty important for pop stars. It shouldn't be. But it is.
Alex B.: She's a very attractive woman.
All Alone in the Moonlight
Whether you're a lover or a hater, we've all got Sade-related memories. Please share.
Nick R.: Maybe being trapped in the car with my dad while "Kiss of Life" is on the radio. And I can't change it.
Alesh H.: My parents had one of the first CD players in Miami. It was like '85. One of the first CDs my parents got was Music Gala of the Year. It had the Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney duet on it, and it had Sade's "Smooth Operator." I thought she was amazing.
Thinking About You
What exactly are people doing while listening to a Sade song?
Nick R.: Well, I think of sad people. Sad, whiny, sexy people. And perfect men with nice clothes and lots of money, no morals, and no time for sad, beautiful women. He's also a surgeon, a smooth operator. You know, he's buff, perfectly groomed, knows seven languages. He's perfect. Oh, and he must be great in bed, big penis, etc.
Alex B.: It's good for a car ride home or a quiet evening at my house.
John Pablo P.: Crying.
Alesh H.: I believe the term the kids are using is knocking boots.
Tommy H.: Having sex mostly.
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Arturo F.: Having sex.
Sade with John Legend. Friday, July 15. BankAtlantic Center, One Panther Pkwy., Sunrise. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets cost $39.50 to $149.50 plus fees via ticketmaster.com. Call 954-835-7825 or visit bankatlanticcenter.com.
Sade with John Legend. Saturday, July 16. American Airlines Arena, 601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets cost $39.50 to $149.50 plus fees via ticketmaster.com. Call 786-777-1000 or visit aaarena.com.