February 1, 2001

In Sync With Her Fans

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At the dawn of a comeback, after an artistic gap that lasts nearly a decade, one of two things can happen: either the artist is greeted with an open-armed, Elian welcome, or she looks similar to Pat Boone swimming in a sea of N’SYNC. Fortunately for Sade, her music has neither been forced to regress to fit into the current boy-band climate, nor been made to suffer from superfluous gangsta-guests.

Lovers Rock, Sade’s fourth and latest release, retains the jazzy blend of soul and R&B that has found a comfortable home throughout hair-band fads and g-funk eras. With nearly her entire original band intact, Lovers Rock soothes from start to finish, and remains a tribute to underproduction. Almost all eleven tracks on Sade’s latest album include only drums, bass, guitar, keys, and the silky voice of the Smooth Operator herself.

And while Lovers Rock has not incorporated the worst facets of the music of 2001, it has incorporated some nice twists of its own. The album’s title, in fact, references a sub-genre of reggae that shines in “All About Your Love” and “Slave Song.”

The album’s first single, “By Your Side” even boasts a chord progression that smacks of Bob Marley’s “Turn Your Lights Down Low.” More often, though, Lovers Rock speaks from the trenches of the relationship war rather than of politics, and the words are not always as eloquent as the seductive music would suggest.

Her lyrical delivery actually saves this album from its low points, which invariably occur in the cliches in some of her lyrics. In more than one song, for example, she compares love to light, and she is certainly not the first to make that comparison. “Flow,” for example, includes such lines as “See me within the light,” “You come down I’m in the light,” and “I feel the love light rush over me.” The song as a whole, however, is fluidly delivered and musically enticing. The keys are played with enough finesse to put D’Angelo in the mood, and Sade’s voice sounds glassy enough to convince you that there must be some substance to the lyrics she sings.

Other songs, such as the title track, do contain lyrics worthy of the voice that preaches them: “I am in the wilderness/ You are in the music in the man’s car next to me.” And in such a song you get the full package. This is why Sade is back, and why we will wait eagerly, even if it is for another decade, to hear her next album.

Archived article by Ari Fontecchio