Sade Is the Best of Our Imagined Selves
Is anything as serenely sexy as Sade running barefoot down a sidewalk, slow-motion, in a midriff-baring wedding dress?
Play it back.
That deliberate tempo, the arch and ache straining in her voice, the lingering questions of their lyrics — aren’t we all that complex? Aren’t all our loves that textured? That layered?
“I’m crying everyone’s tears,” laments the sultriest torch singer of the 80s and the 2000s. “I have already paid for all my future sins.”
Long before the ubiquitous mermaid chic infected every food blog and child’s birthday cake Nigerian-English Sade Adu was sewing a wedding dress underwater and swimming toward her desires. Whatever you thought your imagination was capable of, no one is going to reimagine Hans Christian Andersen this whimsically.
Even the 80s couldn’t neon-tease her glamour. There is a timelessness, a cosmopolitanism to her elegance, her style, that was always going to outlast morphing trends.
Their music makes us believe that our loves, our ones that got away, even our crushes and impulses are every bit as important as everything that chiseled man contemplated in the back of a yellow cab hurtling through NYC in the middle of the night, everything an impossibly gorgeous woman sings about from our own smoky subconscious. We too are sexy, sophisticated, complex — impossibly gorgeous.
She is our id.
When we listen to her music we are no longer the clumsy awkwardness of our own self-destruction, our second-guessing insecurities. For an exquisite few moments or entire albums, we don’t have to be our own worst enemies. We too are flawless gossamer. We are beautiful. Our love is the sharp edge of a perfect blade. We are crashing waves and the slow sexy build of the inevitable.
Fiction is an irresistible aphrodisiac.
Sade is both muse and contralto genius. Her concerts require no backup dancers. No pyrotechnics. The universality of her appeal, her expressionless sophistication is timeless. It is elemental.
“I want to cook you a soup that warms your soul,” she laments in King of Sorrow. Though melancholic her music isn’t torturous. While it could calmly accompany you during depressive spells it is likely also the soundtrack for countless conceptions.
It is ageless in its appeal.
I was almost 19 when I spent the night with a man for the first time in my life. I guess you could call him a man. He was 18. We were both nervous virgins. I remember pictures of us at prom and it’s difficult for me to reconcile that that those gangly kids were technically adults.
My overplucked 90s eyebrows and I were housesitting for a friend of a friend. I was unsupervised for the first time in my young life. We could shoulder-tap, drink whatever we were lucky enough to get and spend the night together.
I didn’t want to have sex with him. But I also felt odd reading in bed together like my parents had my whole life. Matching nightstands and reading glasses seemed way too grown-up for a couple of drunk teenagers.
But we were both book nerds. And I had Sade’s Greatest Hits. I was playing it on repeat. And every exquisite possibility seemed imminent.
He fell asleep sucking on my tits. I didn’t realize it at first, my eyes closed and my arms around him. His mouth kept moving while he slept but he slowed, his rhythm jolted. When I realized he was asleep but that his body kept pulling from my body something deeply primitive stirred and imprinted in my young psyche. Every earthly thing felt connected.
We broke up shortly after that but his instinct to keep connecting to my body was as intoxicating as the phosphors of Sade’s full-spectrum voice filling that small apartment in the dark.
Sade, seemingly effortlessly, embodies what we must consciously pursue, discover and cultivate in our own sexuality, our intimacy. It is the sex appeal we most subconsciously recognize in others. She is a conduit for us, back to our deeper truest selves.
What is autonomic for her requires focus, a concerted effort for us awkward mortals. But it’s worth it.