Welcome back to TGJ Replay!
Designed much like our ‘Retro Rewind’ and ‘From the Vault’ features, ‘Replay’ is That Grape Juice‘s newest reflective segment to act as a written quest to re-spin the gems and jams of yesterday. Unlike its TGJ retrospective predecessors, ‘Replay’ looks to dust off and showcase entire albums (and eras) from a library of pop and Urban pop music hits.
Simply put: the 80’s were more than good to Brit-bred band Sade.
The romantic soul/R&B band, named after its sultry, contralto lead singer, dominated R&B charts on both sides of the pond with their first three projects ‘Diamond Life’ (1984), ‘Promise’ (1985), and ‘Stronger Than Pride’ (1988). Birthing hits like ‘Your Love Is King,’ ‘Sweetest Taboo,’ ‘Is It A Crime,’ and their signature song ‘Smooth Operator,’ their work led them to multiplatinum successes, international acclaim, and a bevy of awards (see: Grammys, Brit Awards, etc.).
With 10 million albums sold by 1990, the group was already faced with enough pressure for their quarternary release to match or surpass its predecessors. That pressure was only heightened when they were greeted with the challenge of bringing their unique brand of jazz-inspired soul to a new decade of listeners. For, as the day was proving, the genre’s music lovers were slowly shifting from the power ballads and slow jams of the 80’s to newer rhythmic variations. From new jack swing to pop-infused R&B (Whitney, Michael, Janet), by 1992 the charts were making more room for up-tempo rhythmic ventures (rappers and hard-hitting R&B) than Sade’s slower offerings.
Undeterred, the group pressed forward with their fourth release. After a four year hiatus, the album – christened ‘Love Deluxe’ – was finally ready for lift off. And, if the response to the project’s lead single was any indication, that lift off was about to go into the stratosphere.
Enter ‘No Ordinary Love’:
A bass-heavy affair, the song came as a redirect of sorts for the band musically and, as the accompanying music video would later prove, visually. Normally demure and well covered, the contralto diva left fans jaw-dropped with the mermaid-inspired music video (see: midriff-baring, cleavage, etc.). As ‘No Ordinary Love’ came as the first music visual of her 30’s it brought with it a peek into her newfound confidence and heightened sexuality.
Given her model-esque looks, the “peek” was accepted with open arms from fans and critics alike. Peaking at #28 on the Hot 100, interest in the song acted as sufficient proof that Sade’s presence in the 90s would be just as prominent – if not more – than it was in the 80s.
But, if fans were surprised by her displays of sexuality, the tune’s parent album’s cover would keep them such.
Landing in U.S. stores in November 1992, anticipation for the project had reached a feverish pitch. Hoisting the band right to the top of charts (#3 peak on Billboard 200), ‘Love Deluxe’ came as the week’s highest-selling R&B release.
But, while sales would indicate fan approval, critics were more on the fence. Some listed the album as the group’s worst project to date with others stating its content did not match up to the ‘Smooth Operators’ and ‘Sweetest Taboos’ of their catalogue to date.
Undeterred, the band pressed forward with fan favorites from the set ‘Feel No Pain’ and ‘Kiss Of Life.’
The former, released in the U.K. only, proved itself a moderate hit on U.K. charts. ‘Kiss,’ which landed the group its 7th top 10 hit on U.S. R&B charts, proved itself a moderate hit Stateside (peaking at #78 on Hot 100).
‘Cherish the Day,’ the last release from the project, quickly became a fan and critic favorite upon its parent album’s release. But, by the time the song surfaced on radio as an official single, nearly a year after ‘Love Deluxe’ hit record shelves, it appeared interest waned.
Missing the Hot 100 all together, the tune made a slight dent on R&B charts in fall 1993 (peaking at #45).
When all was said and done, ‘Love,’ like its predecessors, did not have much to brag about on singles charts, but album charts sang a different tune. A multiplatinum success in the U.S. and UK., the project would also go onto industry acclaim from Grammys in the form of a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals in 1994.
It’s amazing how on this side of history we can look back over Sade’s exquisite catalog and see nothing but value. But, as many may not know, the songstress was quite the critical polarizer in her day. For, while some found her take on R&B refreshing given the height and hype of what was happening around her (see: power ballads, uptempo pop/R&B), some critics consistently slammed her for lacking the vocal depth required to carry many of her jazz-inspired tunes.
And, while ‘Love Deluxe’ was greeted with some of that same mistreatment, fast forward 20 years we see now more than ever how much of a gem this project was! Now, as we press play on our jam ‘Mermaid,’ you tell us:
Click here to revisit some of our other TGJ Replays.