Five Best Songs From Sade’s ‘Promise’ Album
The '80s were chock-full of emerging R&B talent that wrote their legend throughout the duration of the decade, one of them being Sade.
Born in Nigeria, Sade, her older brother and her mother moved to England when she was 4 years old. She first lived with her grandparents outside of Colcheter, Essex before settling in Holland-on-Sea with her mother at age 11. After graduating from high school, the singer moved to London and studied fashion design at Saint Martin's School of Art. After completing her coursework in three years, Sade would join a British punk band named Pride and form a partnership with the group's guitarist and saxophonist Stuart Matthewman, with whom she would pen her breakthrough hit, "Smooth Operator."
She split from Pride in 1983, and formed the band Sade with former Pride keyboardist Andrew Hale, bassist Paul Denman and drummer Paul Cook. Then the major label look came. They signed with Epic Records in 1983 and the band immediately began the recording process for their debut album, Diamond Life, which arrived in 1984. The album was an overwhelming success, selling over six million copies internationally and becoming the highest selling debut ever by a British female vocalist. Sade may have been on top of the world, but expectations for her sophomore album were high and many wondered if she would deliver.
Fans got their answer on Nov. 4, 1985, when Sade's sophomore album, Promise was released. The album would be the singer's first to top the charts in both the U.K. and the U.S. (the album arrived two weeks later on Nov. 15 in the states) and was certified four times platinum by the RIAA. Today we take a look back on this classic project and its five best songs.
Promise takes a riveting turn with "Tar Baby," an outstanding selection celebrating bi-racial children, which is one of the albums more endearing moments. "Grandma came to see something she could not believe / How could her girl be so naive / Tar Baby, tar baby told the secret she conceived," she sings. Sade glides over the hollow drums, keys and saxophones as she breaks into the groove of the song. Lyrics like "When I look at you, I can't believe my eyes / With your magic I think you just might charm the birds out of the sky," speaks to her love of the darker-hued children of the world and serves as a stellar bridge to an even more stellar composition.
Sade gifts listeners with a smooth offering in the form of "Never as Good as the First Time." The second single released from Promise, the song finds the singer waxing poetic about the unforgettable experience that is making love for the first time. "Good times, they come and go / Never going to know / What fate is going to blow / Your wage, you hope that it feels right / Sometimes it comes and it goes / You take it ever so slow / And then you lose it and then it flows right to you," she sings. The beautiful songstress reminds us that "It's never as good as the first time" and delivers what would be her third entry into the Top 20 of Billboard's Hot 100 chart, continuing her streak of hit records.
Sade weaves a tale about a sex worker on this guitar-laden selection. Written by Sade and Stuart Matthewman, the lyrics convey the innocence of the woman, simply known as "Jezebel." "Jezebel wasn't born wasn't born with a silver spoon in her mouth, she probably had less than all of us / But when she knew how to walk, she knew how to bring the house down / Can't blame her for her beauty, she wins with her hands down," she sings. Sade's vocals are full of sorrow and makes for one of her better performances on the album. While not released as a single, "Jezebel" has gone on to become one of the more memorable songs in her catalog and is a mainstay on the playlists of many Sade loyalists.
"This may come, this may come as some surprise, but I miss you / I can see through all of your lies, but I still miss you ," Sade sings over an organ on the Promise album opener, "Is It a Crime," a passionate number that finds the singer as sensuous as ever. Asking herself "is it a crime" to be in love with a promiscuous man, Sade declares her infatuation for her lover and all but apologizes for her yearning over flawless live instrumentation. "Is It a Crime" was such a hit with fans who bought the album that DJ's incorporated it into their playlists without it being serviced as an official single, leading to the song reach No. 55 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart.
There are few songs that stand the test of time like Sade's 1985 smash hit, "Sweetest Taboo." Released as the lead single from her sophomore album, the song was a hit internationally, but made its biggest impact in the U.S., peaking at the No. 5 slot on the Billboard Hot 100 and giving Sade her second consecutive No. 1 single on Adult Contemporary chart. Purring "You give me the sweetest taboo / That's why I'm in love with you / You give me the sweetest taboo / Sometimes I think you're just too good to me," Sade delivers the lyrics penned by Martin Ditcham and herself in a sultry nature that could make the most poised of men swoon. From the hypnotic soundbed to the addictive hook, which features addictive lines like "There's a quiet storm and it never felt like this before / There's a quiet storm, that is you / There's a quiet storm and it never felt this hot before, giving me something that's taboo," "Sweetest Taboo" is Sade at her best and one of the definitive classics of its era, regardless of genre.