Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Sade

  • Diamond Life [Portrait, 1985] B
  • Promise [Portrait, 1986] B
  • Stronger Than Pride [Epic, 1988] B-
  • Love Deluxe [Epic, 1992] B-
  • The Best of Sade [Epic, 1994] *
  • Lovers Rock [Epic, 2000] Neither
  • Soldier of Love [Epic, 2010] *

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Diamond Life [Portrait, 1985]
Though there's not much range to her grainy voice or well-meaning songwriting, she and her associates put their project over, and with a fashion model's virtues--taste, concept, sound (cf. "look"). There's no superfluity, no reveling in la luxe, not even an excessive tempo. Which is no doubt why I find myself crediting her humanitarian sentiments, even preferring her "Why Can't We Live Together" to Timmy Thomas's equally spare but naive original. And why those who find "Hang On to Your Love" and "Smooth Operator" seductive (instead of just warming, like me) will think they carry the whole album. B

Promise [Portrait, 1986]
Even when it's this sumptuous, there's a problem with aural wallpaper--once you start paying attention to it, it's not wallpaper anymore, it's pictures on the wall. And while as a wallpaper these pictures may be something, they can't compete with the ones you've hung up special. That's why I prefer my aural wallpaper either so richly patterned you can't see past the whole (Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians) or so intricately worked you can gaze at the details forever (Eno's Another Green World). In between I'll take Julie London. B

Stronger Than Pride [Epic, 1988]
I'm glad this self-made aristocrat has a human side, but I prefer her image: now that she's singing billets-doux, she's even further from rewarding the concentration she warrants than she used to be. Touching your beloved with a few true cliches is hard enough. For an audience you have to come up with something that doesn't fade into the background like the new age jazz she went pop with. B-

Love Deluxe [Epic, 1992]
I'm unable to find fault with her more memorable songs--keep falling asleep before I've finished the sentence. But I swear on a stack of Billboards that half these nine fail to qualify. That's nine, eight with words, in four years. Would you say she's honing her art to the bone? Or would you say she's a nice person with a million-dollar scam? And how come her Somalian woman "hurts like brand-new shoes"? Is that, er, "metaphorical distance"? Are we supposed to clap now? B-

The Best of Sade [Epic, 1994]
another loungecore alternative ("Hang On to Your Love," "No Ordinary Love") *

Lovers Rock [Epic, 2000] Neither

Soldier of Love [Epic, 2010]
I'm glad she finally put some beats on her sang-froid, but by the time she gets around to setting Ghost up with a 16 he'll probably be out of the life ("Soldier of Love," "Babyfather"). *