Emeli Sandé – Long Live the Angels: a return saturated in heartache

Sun, Nov 13, 2016, 10:32


Long Live the Angels

Emeli Sandé

Virgin EMI

R&B / Soul

Emeli Sandé has been through the emotional mill since her 2012 debut. With a marriage – and subsequent divorce, just a year later – under her belt around the same time as Our Version of Events was outselling Adele’s 21, that period of personal tumult may explain the four-year gap and failure to capitalise on her growing momentum. 

Unsurprisingly, then, the Scottish singer has returned with a collection of songs saturated in heartache and loss; basically, the antithesis of the celebration of love that was previously tendered on the likes of Next to Me. Sandé’s lyrics can mostly be taken as heartfelt, but she reverts to saccharine corniness on more than one occasion – not least imploring her Sweet Architect to “come find my address and build me up”. 

Still, there is much to be said for musical reliability and her sleek soul voice is as flawless as ever, even when pushed to its limits on Highs and Lows and the soaring Happen, while there is a familiar if unchallenging comfort in the rich, string-laden production of songs like Breathing Underwater.

So, where does it go wrong? Hints of potential greatness lurk at unexpected junctures – like the snappy beat incorporated into the orchestration on Hurts, while the superb, zooming throb of Garden, featuring Jay Electronica and Áine Zion, sounds like something from Beyoncé’s Lemonade, and the subtle nods to her Zambian heritage on Selah and Tenderly are woven perfectly into the album’s fabric.

Consequently, however, it makes for jumbled confusion of an artist who’s still deciding whether to take on Adele (again) in the ‘heartbroken balladeer’ stakes, or to forego the bland love songs and forge her own path as an innovative electro-soul musician. Judging by what works best on this album, she should set her course for the latter.