In the mid-’80s, ultra-smooth, diet-soul pop ruled the British airwaves, trafficking in sax solos and funk-lite guitar twang. As Margaret Thatcher’s brand of conservative austerity was all but tearing England’s working class apart, this upbeat, worry-melting music was a welcome reprieve. However, the vast majority of these performers were white, borrowing their sound from traditionally black music; the scene was ripe for a group that could inject an authentic jolt of jazz, soul, and contemporary R&B. Enter Sade.
Diamond Life, the group’s debut, is impeccably balanced between honeyed smooth jazz and gripping pop—as its blockbuster singles, “Smooth Operator” and “Your Love is King,” demonstrate. Throughout, frontwoman Sade Adu’s voice is like a full-bodied wine, deep and musky and sweet. Each song deals with love in its different forms: romantic (“Cherry Pie”), platonic (“I Will Be Your Friend”), artistic (“When Am I Going to Make a Living?”). Steadfast and eternal, they’ve spent the ensuing years tweaking the smoldering template set forth offered on this album. –Cameron Cook / Pitchfork.com
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