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Sade: Lovers Rock

Album: Lovers Rock
Label: Epic

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Nothing foreshadows commercial disinterest like an interminable wait between albums: Just ask Don Henley, or Elastica, or Paul Simon, or just about any other slow-moving act who has forced fans to move on to other sounds. Part of the problem is that genres come and go, sometimes quickly, and during a decade-long wait, fickle fans will have likely embraced (and in many cases abandoned) genres from grunge to swing to ska to trip-hop to punk-pop. The best antidote, especially if you're instantly recognizable pop-soul chanteuse Sade, is good old-fashioned artistic stasis: Why change if your music to suit the times if it was timeless to begin with? Eight years after the outstanding Love Deluxe, the new Lovers Rock dabbles in dub (on the notably message-driven "Slave Song" and "Immigrant") and drives home the killer single "By Your Side" with a slow-burning R&B groove that's both unshakable and unmistakably contemporary. But there aren't many surprises beyond those subtleties, and why should there be? Sensuous and soulful, the album's remainder is consistently engaging, from the beat-driven "Flow" (which begs to be reworked for the dance floor) to the spare, heartfelt ballads "The Sweetest Gift" and "It's Only Love That Gets You Through." No one turns a limited artistic palette into an asset like Sade, whose adherence to simple soul makes her virtually incapable of making a wrong move.