Sade images by Sophie Muller
We still remember in surprisingly vivid detail the first time we heard Sade: It was a glittering Friday afternoon on a verdant college quad when the sultry Afro-Caribbean notes of “Smooth Operator” wafted out of an open dorm window. In that moment, we were transported to moments in time, both past and present. We could taste the sea salt on the skin of the boy I had left behind, and smell the heady nighttime scents of a far-flung island paradise we had yet to explore.
But most of all, that song, and indeed the whole of Diamond Life, Sade’s 1984 multiplatinum debut, was a complex, multi-layered cocktail of love, hope, loss and sorrow—an ode to heartbreak delivered as a luxurious pain-as-pleasure sonic experience.
“Coast to coast, LA to Chicago, western male / Across the north and south, to Key Largo,” went the exotic refrain.
Over the course of three decades, Sade released five more highly acclaimed albums, Promise (1985), Stronger Than Pride (1988), Love Deluxe (1992), Lovers Rock (2000), and Soldier Of Love (2010), all of which are now being re-issued as part of the new spectacular new Sony box set This Far, out today, October 9, vis Legacy Recordings.
Each of those records were steeped in an aesthetic of emotional opulence punctuated Sade’ singular vocal delivery: sultry and languid, and viscerally “wider than Victoria Lake.” Although she and her incredible band’s output over these 30-plus years may seem minimal, the musical canon speaks volumes in terms of quality over quantity, racking up 60 million in worldwide sales, several Number 1’s, multiple Grammys, MTV Video Music Awards and, obviously, a BRIT award (she was born Helen Folasade Adu in Nigeria in 1959, but she grew up in Essex, UK.)
Sade’s quiet storm has gone on to influence a tsunami of hugely successful artists, including Beyoncé, Drake (who famously sports a tattoo of the singer on his torso), Kanye West, Missy Elliot, Dua Lipa, FKA Twigs, even Taylor Swift. Hip-hop luminaries and DJs continue to sample her work, creating new club classics, and her timeless tracks have been covered by such a disparity of acts as Deftones, Donna Summer, Frank Ocean, Herbie Hancock, Lauryn Hill, Prince, The 1975, and Tori Amos.
This Far is, fittingly, a chicly designed and packaged career-spanning box set, featuring remastered versions of all six studio albums, on pure 180-gram heavyweight black vinyl. At the only slightly legendary Abbey Road Studios (you may have heard of it), the band teamed up with acclaimed engineer Miles Showell, as well as longtime co-producer Mike Pela, to accomplish job. There are no unreleased or rare tracks included; but surely the title suggests there is something more to come. And if Sade wants to serve up more of that sultry, glamorous heartbreak, we are definitely, excitedly here for it.