Diamond Life (1984)
Smooth Operator/Your Love Is King/Hang On To Your Love/Frankie's First Affair/When Am I Going To Make A Living/Cherry Pie/Sally/I Will Be Your Friend/Why Can't We Live Together
In 1984, everyone wanted to be seen as cool, cultured and rounded in their musical taste and fashion. The anger and hopelessness of the punk years had completely diluted and the "look at me" posturing of the New Romantic movement had pointed the way for a bright, forward-looking, aspirational future and as Bowie once said, a decade earlier, "everything tastes nice". Young people no longer wanted to punch the air, moving and griping about unemployment, no future or corrupt politicians, drinking pints of beer in grubby old pubs. They were dressed up to the nines, in vibrant pastel shades, sipping cocktails or glasses of chilled Chardonnay in wine bars. The very term "wine bar" is somehow synonymous with this album by Sade. It provided the ideal background sound for those relaxed, non-threatening, polished and stylish hang-outs. The people wanted to think they were listening to "cool and jazzy" music and pat themselves on the back for being so cultured. The music was given names like "sophisti-pop" and described as "cocktail lounge elegance". Even the cover's monochrome, tasteful shades totally matched the intended image.
The summer of 1984 was all about earning lots of money and spending it, vacuously showing off and sticking this tape in your car player. The quiet, unassuming Sade was a unlikely symbol of a generation, but if any album epitomises the 1984-86 period, it is this one. As if punk never happened.
All that said, this is still an excellent album. It is immaculately played by Sade Adu's backing band - stunning bass lines, smooth drums, subtle guitar and a crystal clear percussion with a sharpness that matched Adu's icy, detached and aloof vocal delivery. She had a bit of that Grace Jones deadpan vibe to her persona and vocals. That sort of "you can admire me but you an never have me" attitude. The four huge hits singles are all, without exception, excellent - the soulfully seductive Your Love Is King the iconic and jazzy Smooth Operator with its captivating saxophone, When Am I Going To Make A Living and the laid-back groove of Hang On To Your Love. The songs are perfectly created and executed. It is magnificent late night music and yes, it is very sexy. Put on some Benetton gear, make sure your (female) companion has seriously "big hair".
Sade also does a convincing cover of Timmy Thomas's stark 1973 soul hit Why Can't We Live Together. Frankie's First Affair is a good one too, as is the seriously funky Cherry Pie. Sade's vocals on this are superb. Make no mistake, this album still stands up to scrutiny today. The sound quality is stunningly good. A bottle of dry white, please.....