Picture this: It’s a Saturday night. The lights are low. Really low. The dinner you spent a few hours earlier in the afternoon slaving over is now nothing but a few leftover crumbs on plates resting on the counter near the sink. There is possibly some incense burning, and most likely some PG-13 cuddling going down on the couch. And the iPod plugged into your speakers? It’s looping all of your very best of Sade mix, over and over… we’ll let the rest of this play out in your imaginations!
Steaminess aside though, there is no one quite like Helen Folasade Adu, better know as Sade. Born in 1959 in Ikere, Nigeria to an African father and an English mother, the vocalist spent most of her life growing up in London’s north end. As a teenager, the budding beauty– who by now had decided to use the moniker “Sade” as her nickname–developed a deep interest in fashion and began attending St. Martin’s School of Art in London, where she studied design. When she graduated in 1977, she launched her own small line of menswear with a friend that saw decent returns. Because of her unique ethnically ambiguous look, Sade was also able to pick up some modeling gigs on the side to make some extra money.
Despite what seemed like some burgeoning success in fashion, all of the cutting-and-sewing did not manage to eclipse Sade’s love of music. Even as a poppy pre-teen, she obsessively listened to classic soul and Motown, imitating acts like Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, Donna Hathaway and Marvin Gaye. She managed to secure jobs in the music industry, even dressing a few local musicians, but she knew that the stage was where she would shine the most. Soon, Sade landed a gig as the front woman for Latin funk group Arriva. Although Arriva ended up disbanding, Sade and her band mate Ray St. John were able to pen one of the single most GREATEST playa-hater jams of all TIME before the group’s demise– “Smooth Operator”. The song was Sade and St. John’s hit, played “Coast to Coast/ LA to Chicago”. Even though the song was a clear masterpiece, Sade and St. John were still left label-less. With the hope of taking the song to the airwaves the two joined the eight-piece funk group Pride. A conceptual group, Pride was a collective of musicians that broke off into small sub-groups during their live performances. The most popular sub-group, of course, included Sade, guitarist/saxophonist Stewart Matthewman and bassist Paul Denman. The three quickly developed a following, and soon record labels were attending the shows. Initially, most labels were interested in offering a deal to just Sade, which she would graciously turn down time and again. Her refusal to sign without her band mates showed how committed to pure music Sade was– she couldn’t care less about being a “supastar”, all she wanted was to make good music with talented people.
When a label finally agreed to offer a deal to the trio, the other 5 members of Pride urged them to accept. In 1983, the eponymous “Sade” was finally born, and the members began writing their own music. After adding keyboardist Andrew Hale to the group, the now-four felt that they were ready to present heir efforts to their label, the UK division of Epic Records. The result was a 1984 UK Top Ten Album, Diamond Life. The record, which eventually went platinum, was a lush soundscape of funk, jazz, Latin beats, and undeniable sultriness. Sade’s lyrics were a just as poignant compliment to the music, featuring candid songs about heartbreak (“Cherry Pie”), the woes of trying to find yourself in the world (“When Am I Going to Make a Living”), relationship highs (“Your Love is King”), world peace (“Why Can’t We Live Together”) and even a streetwalker (“Sally”). If the music industry was looking for a manifesto, this was it! Sade gained legions of fans, helping to make her one of the most popular acts of the 1980s.
Her success continued with 1985’s Promise, which made it into the Top Twenty both in the US and the UK. Although singles “Never As Good As the First Time” and “Is It a Crime ” were slower to chart, the album’s stand-out track became Sade’s signature jam, “Sweetest Taboo”. The song, with is afro-beat influences and a melody so good it’s almost indescribable, is a hauntingly accurate description of a love that teeters on the verge of intoxicating. The song took off in the US. In fact, it had such a deep impact on the modern hip-hop and R’n’B communities that it is frequently cited by artists as their number one sexy-time jam! “Sweetest Taboo” was most memorably name-dropped by the mighty might Mos Def in his mainstream hit “Ms. Fat Booty”: “Showin’ me that tan line/ And that tattoo/ Playing Sade Sweetest Taboo/ Burning candles/ All my other plans got canceled”. You might have missed that line in the past, but the true Sade fan never misses a reference–click here to get a refresher.
Sade kept busy through all the success, finding time to make a cameo in the 1985 film Absolute Beginner, in which she played jazz singer Athene Duncannon. The vocalist also became a style icon during the 80s, sporting signature slicked back hair and red lipstick. She favored sleek sexy pieces that only seemed to accentuate the sexy depth of her music– think body-con frocks by Azzedine Alaia, clean-cut high waisted Levis, and strong-shouldered black suits. Fashion-wise, Sade was the original Rihanna, stylin’ on these fools before people even knew what a “personal stylist” was!
1992’s Love Deluxe gave us much-loved hits such as “No Ordinary Love”, but after the album, Sade retreated into the shadows of normal family life for almost a decade. In 1996 she gave birth to her daughter Ila, and spent most of her time at her home in Jamaica. But like the taboo she sang about, recording was difficult to turn her back on, so in 2000 the singer released her comeback album Lovers Rock. The first single, “By Your Side” is one of my personal favorite Sade songs, mostly because it proves that Sade has one of the single most unique voices in music industry. Not many artists can rebound from an 8-year absence with an album that reaches Top Three on the Billboard charts AND gets crazy critical acclaim. But that is what Lovers Rock did, cementing Sade’s place in the industry as a legend with an untouchable cool.
These days, the singer is working on a new album, which her label promises to drop in 2009. So get your candles ready, because the singer, affectionately dubbed “the first lady of cool”, is about to make your date nights a little steamier with her much-anticipated return.
Fun Facts About Sade
1. Sade’s 2002 song “By Your Side” was featured on an episode of Sex and the City— you know, the one where Samantha gives in to Richard (that dirty bastard!) and lets love in? A classic!
2. Sade won a Grammy for Best New Artist in 1985.
3. Sade was married to Spanish filmmaker Carlos Scola and lived with him in Spain, even moving into his castle! Their marriaged dissolved in 1991 though.
4. Sade is a well known recluse, rarely granting interviews to the press.
5. Most important fact: SADE IS MORE THAN ONE PERSON!! The name refers to the band that the singer fronts.
“Your Love Is King” (Live)
“Love Is Stronger Than Pride”
“By Your Side”
- Reminisce With M.I.S.S. : Arrested Development
- DJ Zita – M.I.S.S. Crew Valentine’s Mix 2008
- Reminisce With M.I.S.S. – Jodeci
- Reminisce with M.I.S.S. – JJ Fad
- The Music Link List – 1.12.2010