I’m pretty much convinced that Sade is the most underrated singer/group of all time (Helen Folasade Adu, Sade for short, is the full name of the famed lead singer, and group’s name is actually Sade). Sade and her group have been out for 25 years, produced 6 iconic albums, and some of the most ethereal tours in the history of music. To get a better understanding of how slighted Sade has been, I’ll examine her success versus some of her contemporaries.
I used to appreciate the hallowed company and dignified distinction a Grammy award provided, but then I dug deeper. In terms of success, I fully understand that Sade is not in the same company as the Beatles, Michael Jackson, U2, Stevie Wonder, or Frank Sinatra. That being said, what sense does it make for such a talent singer to only have 4 Grammy awards? What’s worse, she only has 8 career nominations! Her four victories are in the following categories:
- Best new artist (1986)
- Best R&B performance by a duo or group with vocals- No Ordinary Love (1994)
- Best pop vocal album- Lovers Rock (2002)
- Best R&B performance by a duo or group with vocals- Soldier of Love (2011)
The two most interesting conclusions I can make are that she wins an award roughly every 8 years, and the committee isn’t sure if she’s an R&B artist or a pop artist (further confusion is that she has won only one American Music Award … and it was in the category of favorite adult contemporary artist). Matched up to artists with similar time spans, she rates fairly well considering comparative success. Michael Jackson has 15 Grammys, Prince has 7, and Madonna also has 7. That is acceptable, but how does Beyonce have 4 times the number of Grammys as an iconic singer? I won’t argue with Beyonce’s commercial success, but I’m fairly sure anyone who actually knows anything about music will agree that quality wise she has nothing on Sade (by the way, doesn’t it seem strange that Beyonce has more Grammys than Michael Jackson, and more than Prince and Madonna combined?!). To put Sade’s paltry 4 awards in perspective, the Black Eyed Peas have 6 Grammys, Amy Winehouse has 5, and Nora Jones won 5 awards at the 45th ceremony in February of 2003. I believe that Nora Jones is a very talented singer, writer, and piano player; I even own her CD Come Away With Me, but no one can convince me she’s better than Sade. In retrospect, it’s obvious that Grammy counts are more of an indictment on the current pitiful state of music, not the actual talent level of the artists. To provide more examples of the lunacy of Sade’s awards, she has never won a Soul Train Music Award. These awards honor the best in African American music and entertainment … allegedly. Somehow Sade was able to win a Grammy for her album Lovers Rock, but wasn’t able to win a Soul Train Award despite being nominated. In addition, in 2011 Sade won a Grammy for Soldier of Love (the single, not the album), but once again not the Soul Train Award she was nominated for. Am I the only one confused?
Earlier I made reference to Sade’s 6 iconic albums; here’s a more detailed description of each of them and one of their compilation releases.
This album came out in 1984 and includes two of Sade’s biggest hits to date Smooth Operator and Your Love is King. It made it all the way to #2 in the US, and is 4 times platinum. Smooth Operator reached as high as #5 on the Billboard charts.
Just a year later, 1985, Sade debuted this album, which was also a critical success. Two popular hits were The Sweetest Taboo and Is it a Crime. Promise made it all the way to #1 on the charts, and is also 4 times certified platinum.
Stronger Than Pride
Sade got lazy and waited three years, until 1988, to release this album. Maybe they needed a little more time, as it didn’t do as well as the previous two releases. The album did include Love is Stronger than Pride and Paradise. It reached #7 on the Billboard charts, and is 3 times platinum.
In 1992 Sade came out with another gem; it had the three classic hits No Ordinary Love, Kiss of Life, and Cherish the Day. Love Deluxe peaked at #7, and is 4 times platinum.
Best of Sade
In 1994 Sade released their first compilation album. It contained all the hits from their four albums, as well as several splendid songs that never achieved mass acclaim. This greatest hits LP contained 16 songs in total, reached #9 on the Billboard charts, and once again went 4 times platinum.
The year 2000 was graced by another awesome Sade release. Lovers Rock the album, not the similarly named track on the disc, won Sade a Grammy thanks to such prizes as By Your Side and King of Sorrow. It got as high as #3 on Billboard, and was 3 times platinum.
Soldier of Love
After a 10 year hiatus, Sade returned with a long awaited album and accompanying tour. Maybe because of the long wait people began to appreciate their artistry more, but this is the first Sade album to top the Billboard charts. So far the only major hit is Soldier of Love, but my personal favorites are Skin and Bring Me Home. Soldier is already a platinum CD, and it hasn’t been out a year yet (that is quite an accomplishment now considering that the last time Sade released an album people actually purchased albums, not just picked and chose songs from iTunes or the like).
I may be completely off base and biased, but I think Sade is one of the most gifted singers (groups) of this generation. Unfortunately the music they release doesn’t pander to the instant gratification, Youtube generation where everything matters about the artist except the actual music they make (examples include people care about Kanye West’s irrelevant political views and odd glasses more than his music, people are much more taken by Beyonce’s videos than her actual songs, and Lady Gaga/Katy Perry are lionized much more for their daring costumes than actual musical feats). Despite being completely underappreciated hopefully Sade will continue to crank out music and perform tours that are more experiences than just events. I won’t expect a new album quickly just to gravy train off the success of Soldier of Love thanks to this awesome quote by Sade herself, “I only make records when I feel I have something to say. I’m not interested in releasing music just for the sake of selling something. Sade is not a brand.” If more artists kept to that mantra the music industry probably wouldn’t be in the pitiful state that it is now.