A decade has passed since Sade Adu last released an album of new songs. So how does one of the definitive artists of cocktail soul make music in 2010? By combining tradition with up-to-the-minute grooves and sonic textures.
Sade continues to practice a now-classic style of exquisite heartbreak and desperate desire while slipping from blissed-out funk to heady R&B revivalism. The opening track, "The Moon and the Sky," throbs seductively with neo-soul acoustic guitar and a wheedling synth figure that wouldn't be out of place on a Dr. Dre tune. "Morning Bird" uses minimalist piano and subtle Latin rhythms to create a bed of haunting sound. A slight Caribbean lilt and doo-wop-style background vocals infuse "Babyfather" with the electric charge of urban R&B.
Among my favorites is "In Another Time," a slow-burning waltz about broken hearts that nods to the music of Adele, Duffy and Corinne Bailey Rae, all artists who have probably been influenced by Sade.
A few songs here, including the title track, incorporate strings and horns, as if they are sampled into the mix, giving the proceedings a contemporary feel and a vaguely hip-hop mood. The effect is grimy and disorienting in a gently psychedelic manner.
"Soldier of Love" is a great tune, but it leaves you wondering whether Sade means love is a battlefield, she's one of the walking wounded, or she's perhaps tilting at windmills in futility. Either way, she survives and heals herself, which is comforting and sexy.