You look at each other. The temperature rises from mild to medium and continues up. The window is open but you shut the blinds, forcing the breeze to really work to really reach you. You spent $35.00 on a strawberry and sawdust-scented candle and you light it now, a great moment. Walking to the bed you think how happy you are with Egyptian cotton sheets, they’ve served you well. You are kissing each other lightly, it’s nice, but something is missing. Climbing to the record player, you remove the large black disc from its sheath, place it on the turntable and gently set the needle down. A beat begins, a voice howls out from the speaker.
Sade has become synonymous with sexy time music. Those come-hither chords, that butter-smooth croon. Her singing voice is known as a contralto, the lowest of all female vocal ranges. It’s what gives her the ability to dig deep into our nervous systems, setting a sultry mood that perhaps a female artist with a mezzo-soprano or soprano voice cannot reach. There’s something about not only the low, but the lowest female voice that really gets the blood rushing to different parts of our bodies. Other artists that fall in this range include the likes of Grace Jones, Annie Lennox, Etta James, Adele, and Nina Simone.
While it’s true that other contraltos like Lady Gaga and Katy Perry aren’t exactly the tenderest of button-pushers, the voice is there. And if they wanted to belt out a tune for between the sheets, I’m sure they could. It’s just an alternate musical style road they’ve chosen to travel, using their talents differently and successfully. Sade (born, Helen Folasade Adu) or her compatriots must have had someone noticed something early on who said: “Oooh girl! Every time I hear your voice I get goosies. You need to use that and capitalize.” And she did. Over the past three decades, she has carved out her own seductive niche, making her songs perfect anthems for low lights and late nights.
Within the last two years, artists have surfaced (and with a bang!) that have critics making immediate comparisons to Sade. Jessie Ware is arguably the current harbinger of this arousing movement. When her single “Wildest Moments” was released, the world began to recognize and respect this British songstress. While I did not initially make the connection with that song, my first listen to “Running” had me Sade-ing all over the place. And her physical resemblance to Sade in the video is uncanny: tightly bound hair, big earrings, careful makeup. Ware is happy to not only acknowledge this comparison but, in an interview with Jennifer Still, goes so far as to say the video is a “complete homage to ‘Smooth Operator.’” It’s refreshing to see artists out there doing their thang thang, and giving props where props are due.
If I am out of the comfort of my own apartment and I hear an xx song in a bar or, weirdly enough, in a supermarket, I feel my blood pressure rise. It is not because I am turned on by the sensual male/female vocals of Oliver Sim and Romy Madley-Croft, it is simply because: 1.) I do not like their music. 2.) I do not like their music in a public setting. It’s undeniable that Madley-Croft’s soft and sometimes straining vocal cords resemble that of Sade’s and it’s well known their music is a hit for hormonal youngsters, but for me, they just don’t have the Jessie Ware pow! factor and allure. However, after a second thought, any reason to get the blood flowing and the heart pumping, I suppose, is a good one.
Who knew the girl singing was a boy? You say it’s obvious now but you totally thought it was a girl. Perhaps Rhye is the love child of the xx and Jessie Ware, with the deliberate placements of silence and eruptions, loose use of bass tones, and notes held for just long enough to make even the uninterested interested, or perhaps their debut record, Woman, is just what you’ve been looking for to set the mood and set it fast. The likelihood is that it’s both. Rhye is made up of electro-duo Mike Milosh and Robin Hannibal. Initially releasing singles with little information attached to their identities, the pair is now out and proud, garnering overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics. And of course, that deserving comparison to the steamy sighs of Sade herself.
There is a sexy revival happening and Sade is at its core. Listeners must have overdone it with their Radiohead records and Massive Attack albums. They must be fed up with the twinkly folk guitars and mopey indie darlings. There is a need out there, a yearning for some brass, some bass, some soul. The lights are dimming, the breeze is hitting you in soft spurts, the candle was worth the money. A beat begins, a voice howls.