Stronger Than Pride

Sade

Epic, 1988

http://www.sade.com

REVIEW BY: Mark Millan

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/10/2010

Sade is one of my all time favorite pop bands, and I was pleased to learn that they will be releasing a new album in February 2010, their first since the divine Lovers Rock came out in mid-2000. Stronger Than Pride was their third album of sensual, sophisticated pop songs sung by the ever-intoxicating Sade Adu. While it doesn’t quite hit the highs that their exceptional debut disc did (Diamond Life from 1984), it is a slight improvement on the mega-selling Promise, released in 1985. 

The band turned out an album that is just as slick but shorter, and it never loses its momentum or appeal. Most of the songs revolve around love themes, but they do so in a elegant way, thanks to Adu’s focused and touching lyrics. Unlike Promise, these lyrics are more direct and not obtuse in the least, as her character studies are fully developed and each song’s potential is realized. The band created a slightly more “pop” sound that moved from their jazzy influences to a more R&B-based record. 

The beautiful Adu again graced the cover and the band had another big seller in their bag.  Following this record, the years between albums would increase to the now decade-long gaps that us fans have had to find ways to cope with, all the while enjoying the precious handful of releases that we have. Stronger Than Pride is not the band’s greatest album, but for reasons unknown to myself, it is the one I play most often.

Sade is a band that has always moved impressive numbers of albums but has struggled to produce the same figures for their singles. That doesn’t mean they haven’t had their share of hits, it’s just that their singles may not be as memorable as those of their contemporaries. Just as when I’m listening to their records, the singles don’t really jump out and shout “here I am.” They more or less blend in with the rest of the material and add to the overall quality of the work as a whole.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The lead singles for this disc were the title track and a glorious song called “Paradise.” It’s one of the band’s best numbers and features some of Adu’s finest lyrics. The track itself is pure perfection with a seriously groovy up-tempo beat and Adu weaving her chilled vocals around it superbly. “Stronger Than Pride” is almost depressing save for the gorgeous, intoxicating instrumentation full of synth fills and some subtle percussion to accent what is a truly sad song.  Adu has rarely written more personal and introspective lyrics, but it’s her delivery here that is the most touching.

The sexy “Nothing Can Come Between Us” is a purely romantic pop gem that grooves easily along with a more fleshed-out track and plenty of layered vocals. “Keep Looking” is a sly groove that is just a chill-out song of sorts that the band obviously had some fun with. Adu explores the lower parts of her vocal range, and along with some seriously funky guitar work, it’s another gem from this fabulous band. 

“Haunt Me” is a another sad song that could be about anything or anyone, and that’s thanks to another evasive lyric from Adu. Musically, it’s a simple, mainly acoustic piano ballad that is quite beautiful so I enjoy it just for the music really. More straightforward love songs in “Clean Heart” and “I Never Thought I’d See The Day” are given the band’s unique treatment to highlight the sentiments of Adu’s poignant lyrics. 

“Turn My Back On You” suffers because of the dreadful drum machine ticking away like the most annoying alarm clock in the world. It ruins what could have been one of the best songs on the album. “Give It Up” is closer to their earlier material than anything else here. It’s a slick jazz-influenced percussive track that is again all about love, but this is the good stuff and the music reflects that perfectly. 

The disc closes with an instrumental piece titled “Siempre Hay Esperanza,” which is best remembered for being the soundtrack to a scene from Sea Of Love where Ellen Barkin’s femme fatale seduces Al Pacino’s frustrated cop in a supermarket wearing nothing but a short coat and spiked heels.

Stronger Than Pride serves as a precursor to the R&B-flavored sound the band perfected with their luxuriously sexy Love Deluxe release, from 1992. As I said earlier, this is not one of their greatest achievements, but it is still a slick, chill, and beautiful collection of songs that never seem to age or lose their luster – much like Sade Adu herself.

Rating: B+

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