If the biggest R&B comeback of 2009 was the return of Maxwell, then 2010's big story is undoubtedly the return of vocalist Sade
Adu and her bandmates, guitarist-saxophonist Stuart Matthewman, bassist Paul Denman and keyboardist Andrew Hale. Soldier of Love
, released in the U.S. on Feb. 9, 2010, is the group's first studio album in 10 years, and definitely the group's best effort in almost two decades. Despite the lengthy hiatus, Sade's voice sounds as delicately strong as ever and the musicianship is equally delicate, and has the same kind of mature, peaceful dignity that's always been their trademark.
Soldier of Love
's sixth album, and on the surface it seems highly reminiscent of the material from their late 1980s-early 1990s heyday: there's songs about the many forms of love throughout the album, and plenty of beautiful melodies. But the difference here is that the lyrics and themes are a little darker here than in the past. One example is the opening track, "The Moon and the Sky," about a relationship gone bad and the broken-hearted lover who's been left behind, wondering about what could have been: "Why did you make me cry, why didn't you come get me one last time?/You'll always know the reason why/We could have had the moon and the sky," Sade sings over a melancholy rhythm.
Another example of the album's darker tone is the fifth song, "Long Hard Road." Over a sparsely-arranged, mid-tempo melody, Sade sings "There's a long, hard road ahead," and has a distinct touch of weariness in her voice. Despite this, though, the lyric continues optimistically: "but a voice inside me says ... it's gonna be alright," she sings. And although the song's ultimate message is one of hope, there's definite touches of sadness in the lyrics and vocals as well as within the music.
Love is Pain
Image © Epic Records.
The first single and title track, "Soldier of Love"
is perhaps a perfect example of the album's dual themes of love and pain (and how painful love can sometimes be). The song's lyrics make it perfectly clear: "I'm at the borderline of my faith, I'm at the hinterland of my devotion/In the frontline of this battle of mine, But I'm still alive/I'm a soldier of love, Every day and night/I'm soldier of love, All the days of my life." The lyrics make it seem as if she's fighting for love in both the literal as well as metaphorical senses, and this approach carries even more weight since U.S. troops, British soldiers and other forces are currently fighting very real wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Although very melancholy at times, Soldier of Love is a fairly uplifting album that's filled with gorgeous melodies, sophisticated lyrics and themes, and of course, some of the most beautiful singing you'll ever hear. There's an old saying that great art can come from pain and sorrow, and that's definitely true here. But the album doesn't indulging in self pity or spend too much time wallowing in sorrow. And as a whole, the album is a celebration of - and tribute to - the power of love.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy