Anatomy of The Groove: “Turn My Back On You” by Sade

Sade are a band who’ve maintained a very distinctive musical sound. Always stripped down and always seductive,this London based group had an instrumental styling that made them seem like a chamber jazz group playing funky soul music. As Henrique pointed out to me at one point,there sound actually paved the way for 21st century neo soul in that regard. Even so,that special musical quality they continue to have just gives them a “Sade Sound” as it were. Mostly deriving from the Latin pop band Pride,they named the band after its lead singer Helen Folasade (Sade for short)  Adu after she joined in 1982.

Somehow,Sade were always a very big deal in my family. Even one breakfast cereal prize in the mid 80’s was a magnet depicting the cover art for their 1984 debut album Diamond Life. And songs such as “Smooth Operator”,”Hang On To Your Love”,”Sweetest Taboo”, “Never As Good As The First Time” and “Paradise” were a big part of how my view of music is shaped. The latter of those songs came from their 1988 release Stronger Than Pride. Over the years,its become one of my favorite Sade albums. And a favorite song from it for me has turned out to be “Turn My Back On You”.

A snare heavy Afro Brazilian drum shuffle,accented by percussive clavs with a deep 8 note bass line provides the intro to the song over two bars. By the third and fourth bars,a deep jazzy guitar plays a 14 note riff before a higher pitched rhythm guitar accentuates it with seven notes in a slightly higher chord. This represents the basic chorus of the song. On the refrains,Sade’s breezy vocalese is accompanied by a minor chorded keyboard part with the lower jazz guitar does some more improvisational solos underneath it. After several turns of this pattern,an extended version of the chorus fades out the song itself.

Most of Sade’s songs featured a conventional pop song structure with a hook filled chorus (usually with Sade’s own backup harmonies) and appropriate refrains. Many of them were very much funk and soul based with their jazzy quiet storm atmosphere. “Turn My Back On You” is one of the few Sade songs that takes their very distinctive sound to the musical land of heavy naked funk. The Afro Latin flavor is still a major part of the rhythm. But the groove stays on the one very completely. And doesn’t give way to any radio friendly pop structure. On the funky side of things,this might be Sade at their grooving best.

 

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