There is a minor, yet definitive sound when listening to U.K. R&B. For one, the energy found in beats and tempo tend to have more energy than their American friends. Then there is the very soulful, bellowing voices reminiscent of soul singers of the American 50s and 60s. What’s always important however, is the story that the voice can tell of everything from heartbreak to self love. In recent years, U.K. R&B has been creeping more and more onto American soil and making a strong impact. We have singers like Jorja Smith, Mabel, Ray Blk, Cosima, Nao, Eryn Allen Kane, and Ella Mai who are paving their way and creating experimental sounds, well known to the genre. U.K. R&B is definitely getting its proper shine from the world with the various voices to choose to listen to at the moment. And all of this would not be possible with out the cooing sounds of Sade. Sade is an award winning singer-songwriter and composer of her band of the same name. Her reign of influence has lasted for over 30 years awarding her 4 Grammys, 1 BRIT Awards, and American Music Awards, and a slew of nominations.
Born in Ibadan, Nigeria to a Nigerian professor and English nurse, Sade moved to the U.K. when she was just four years old. She grew up in Essex before moving to London at 18 to study fashion design at Saint Martin’s School of Art. She briefly worked as a model and menswear designer, before singing backup for the band Pride in the early 1980s. This led to the the attention of record labels, which led to Sade and some members of the band forming their own called Sade.
The band has released six albums since 1984, all to critical acclaim. Their first album, Diamond Life features hits such as, “Your Love is King” and “Smooth Operator”, and set the stage for the themes found in most Sade songs. We were gifted an album (and many albums more) that discussed the intensity of love, whether positive or negative, whether self-care or about a lover. Diamond Life won the Best British Award at the Brit Awards in 1985. The band went on to create Promise (1985), Stronger than Pride (1988), Love Deluxe (1992), and Lover Rock (2000). Their last album in 2010, Solider of Love, went on to win a Grammy, revealing just how strong of an influence and love resides with the singer and her band.
What makes Sade such a timeless artist is not only her husky and soft voice, but her ability to calmly tell her story (and maybe our stories as well) about love and all of its conflicting emotions. The band was able to fuse elements of many genres – jazz, soul, and pop – to create a resonating sound. The same holds true for many U.K. artists today who are receiving recognition. For example, listen to Jorja Smith’s “On My Mind”, and tell me if you can confidently box the song into one category. Sade’s pleasant fusion of genres and themes of love in all its forms paved the way for many neo soul artists (and possibly the creation of the genre itself). She brought the definitive sound of U.K. R&B, which was raw, edgy, and complex yet smooth blend of sounds into worldwide attention.