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Still Smooth: Soul Diva Sade Tops the Charts

A decade after her last LP, UK singer scores 2010’s first blockbuster

Rolling Stone IN May 10, 2010

Donna Svennevik/Disney ABC Television Group/Getty Images

Late in the recording sessions for Soldier of Love, the sixth album by British soul diva Sade, something clicked: a stuttering, slow-burning R&B song that became the album’s title track. “We kind of looked each other in the eye that day,” says Andrew Hale, the group’s keyboardist. “We knew we had something.”

That hit single helped Soldier of Love sell 502,000 copies its first week ”“ the biggest debut since AC/DC’s Black Ice in October 2008, and 132,000 more copies than her last LP, 2000’s Lovers Rock.

Nigerian-born singer Sade Adu, 51, has been a pop superstar since 1985’s ”˜Smooth Operator.’ Sade has a built-in older audience accustomed to buying music the old-fashioned way. “She’s got the Oprah crowd locked up, and Pitchfork says she doesn’t suck ”“ that’s pretty good,” says Carl Mello of New England music retailer Newbury Comics. “People get what she does, and she doesn’t disappoint them.” Though Sade’s fans trend older, ”˜Soldier of Love’ managed to get radio play on hip-hop formats. “Artists like Kanye West and Drake started name-dropping Sade on their blogs and in interviews,” says Epic Records’ marketing VP Lee Stimmel. “You would believe that it’s an adult buyer, but her demo spread is really broad.”

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Sade ”“ who grossed $26.2 million on her last tour, in 2000-2001 ”“ plans to hit the road to support the hit record. “We’re just amazed and very proud,” Hale says of Soldier of Love, which hit Number One in its second week, too, selling another 190,000 copies. “We have a very, very loyal group of people who love our music ”“ over a period of 25 years, it’s two, possibly three generations who are kind of going along.”

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