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It’s been forever since the other Adele – Adele Emeli Sandé – presented new solo music. But now the Scottish singer, songwriter and pianist – compelled to use her middle moniker due to the ascendance of one Adele Adkins – has finally surrendered the sequel to Our Version Of Events (OVOE). Expectations for Long Live The Angels are high – at least in the UK. There, Sandé’s debut was 2012’s top-selling album. She performed at the London Olympics’ opening and closing ceremonies. Sandé trumped the BRITs, taking out “British Album Of The Year”. The neuroscience grad’s profile was such that she actually inspired an unauthorised biography. The UK media suggested that Sandé was approaching ubiquity. Still, in contrast to Ms Adkins, Sandé isn’t yet a household name globally. She’s never toured Australia.
Sandé didn’t go totally off-grid between albums. She guested on Rudimental’s Home (the mega Free). She covered Beyoncé’s Crazy In Love with The Bryan Ferry Orchestra for Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby soundtrack. Then last year she duetted on Jess Glynne’s oddly entitled song Saddest Vanilla. But Sandé, 29, largely dealt with dramz. She married, and divorced, her childhood sweetheart – marine biologist Adam Gouraguine. And, overwhelmed by fame, Sandé suffered exhaustion. Seeking sanctuary, she visited her father’s native Zambia. However, according to industry-types, the biggest reason for Sandé delaying her soph was the daunting prospect of competing with Adele’s 25. So – can she regain traction?
Sandé initially enjoyed success as a songwriter, connecting with producer Naughty Boy in London. They fashioned Chipmunk’s 2009 grime hit Diamond Rings, Sandé singing the hook. Having signed a deal, Sandé won the BRITs Critics’ Choice Award even before dropping an album – like Adele. In 2011 she premiered with the melo-phoric Heaven – a throwback to Massive Attack’s trip-hop symphonics. On OVOE Sandé showed herself to be less of an urban soulstress than a soul classicist, Nina Simone her epitome. She penned the track Hope with Alicia Keys – the start of an enduring partnership (Sandé has contributed to Keys’ Here). Sandé’s breakthrough hit in Oz was Next To Me (stream the Kendrick Lamar remix!).
Fans of OVOE will cherish Long Live The Angels (LLTA). Beginning with the spiritual “poem” Selah, it’s dominated by Sandé’s trademark hyper-ballads, some, such as the stunning Breathing Underwater, featuring both orchestration and a gospel choir. But there are also acoustic numbers like Give Me Something – redolent of Babyface’s soft R&B. Yet Sandé’s voice remains paramount. She liaises with old, and pointedly British, studio acquaintances – among them Naughty Boy, his protégés Mojam, and Chris Loco (Raleigh Ritchie).
LLTA is a transfigurative divorce album. With its heart-palpitating handclaps, and emotional sweep, the lead single Hurts – produced by Mojam plus Mac & Phil – is a quiet stormer that threatens to become a Rudimentally drum ‘n’ bass banger. It establishes the LP’s themes of guilt, anguish, catharsis, realisation, forgiveness and release.
Sandé is a sentimental lyricist – perhaps only Sade might get away with Sweet Architect. LLTA has its Adult Contemporary elements, too, Every Single Little Piece bordering on that Vegas-fixture Celine Dion. Nonetheless, Sandé is adaptable. She trails Bey’s country Daddy Lessons with Tenderly – which, ironically, introduces her father Joel (and extended fam). This Much Is True, a deluxe edition cut, semi-riffs off Sandé’s classic Professor Green collab Read All About It while emulating Bob Dylan. Most incongruous is the Loco-led Garden – spare, spectral, beat-driven avant-soul with a cerebral rap from the shadowy Jay Electronica. The New Orleanian, reportedly based in the UK, is increasingly more famous for flossin’ about his music than sharing it. But apparently even he can’t resist Sandé’s power.