Helen Folasade Adu, CBE (born 16 January 1959), known professionally as Sade Adu or simply Sade (/ʃɑːˈdeɪ/ shah-DAY), is a Nigerian British singer-songwriter, composer, arranger and record producer. Backed by members Paul S. Denman, Andrew Hale and Stuart Matthewman, she gained worldwide fame as the lead vocalist of the English band Sade.
Following a brief stint as a fashion designer of men’s clothing and part-time model, Sade began singing backup for the band Pride in the early 1980s. Growing attention from record labels led her, along with other fellow band members, to separate from Pride and form the band Sade. Following a record deal with Epic Records, the band released their debut album Diamond Life (1984). The album sold over six million copies, becoming one of the top-selling debut recordings of the 1980s, and the best-selling debut ever by a British female vocalist.
Following the release of the band’s debut album, they went on to release a string of multi-platinum selling albums. Their follow-up Promise was released in 1985, peaked at number-one in the UK Albums Chart and the US Billboard 200, and went on to sell four million copies in the US. Sade later made her acting debut in the British film, Absolute Beginners (1986), before the release of the band’s albums, Stronger Than Pride (1988) and Love Deluxe (1992). After the release of the fifth album, Lovers Rock (2000), the band embarked on a ten-year hiatus in which Sade raised her daughter. Following the hiatus, the band returned with their sixth album, Soldier of Love (2010) which became a commercial success and won a Grammy Award.
Sade’s US certified sales stand at 23.5 million units (as of 2015), according to Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) website, and the band has sold more than 50 million units worldwide.
The band was ranked at number 50 on VH1’s list of the “100 greatest artists of all time”. In 2010, The Sunday Times described her as the most successful solo British female artist in history. In 2012, Sade was listed at number 30 on VH1’s “100 Greatest Women In Music”.
The band is credited with influencing the musical genre of neo soul and achieving success in the 1980s with songs that featured a sophisti-pop style, incorporating elements of soul, pop, smooth jazz and quiet storm. The band was part of a new wave of British R&B-oriented artists during the late-1980s and early-1990s that also included artists Soul II Soul, Caron Wheeler, The Brand New Heavies, Simply Red, Jamiroquai and Lisa Stansfield. AllMusic’s Alex Henderson writes that, “Many of the British artists who emerged during that period had a neo-soul outlook and were able to blend influences from different eras”. Following the coining of the term “quiet storm” by Smokey Robinson, Sade was credited for helping give the genre a worldwide audience. Adu has a contralto vocal range that has been described as “husky and restrained” and was compared to jazz singer Billie Holiday.
Sade’s work has influenced numerous musical artists. Rapper Rakim of Eric B. & Rakim stated he grew up listening to Sade’s soul music and was influenced by her voice and style. Rakim has also referenced Sade’s song “Smooth Operator” in his rap song “Paid in Full” (1987). Talib Kweli stated he learned about precision from Sade due to her performance of Love Deluxe in its entirety at Madison Square Garden. Frontman Chino Moreno of the alternative metal band Deftones has cited Love Deluxe as one of his top 13 favorite albums. In an interview with The Quietus, Moreno said, “I’ve always loved it, it was a big inspiration on me. It’s sort of classy, another cocktail and cityscape record.” The band also covered the lead single “No Ordinary Love” in collaboration with singer Jonah Matranga for the band’s 2005 compilation album, B-Sides & Rarities.
Sade’s work has also been recognized by many musical artists. Rapper Missy Elliott cited Sade’s performance of “Smooth Operator” as one of her favourites. Hip hop group Souls of Mischief stated they grew up listening to Sade’s music. Hip hop group Tanya Morgan also described Sade as one of their favorite artists. Other rappers to recognize Sade include the former rap-duo of Clipse – Malice and Pusha. In reaction to the newly released album Soldier of Love, rapper Kanye West wrote, “This is why i still have a blog. To be a part of moments like this … new Sade … How much better this … than everything else?”. Rapper Rick Ross stated in an interview that “People may know my infatuation with Sade. There’s never been a bad Sade track. I love all different sides.”
American singer-songwriter Beyoncé has recognized Sade, calling her music a “true friend”. The late singer Aaliyah noted that she admired Sade because “she stays true to her style no matter what… she’s an amazing artist, an amazing performer… and I absolutely love her.” American R&B singer Brandy has cited Sade as one of her major vocal influences. Singer Keri Hilson said, “My Dad would whistle Sade melodies randomly all the time. As a kid, I used to try to whistle along to ‘Cherish the Day’ or ‘The Sweetest Taboo.’ He was a real Sade fan and made me one, too!” Kelly Rowland stated she is inspired by Sade Adu and says that “she has a style that’s totally her own.”
Photo: The Fader0