Emeli Sandé’s 2012 album ‘Our Version Of Events’ was one of her most defining and dominating albums of 2012, with an omnipresence that was just overwhelming.
Ultimately taking a break away from it for four years, in that time her personal life took a painful turn as the Scottish singer divorced in 2014, after a year of marriage to her teenage sweetheart. Reflective and impressively compiled into a great body of art, Emeli’s new project expresses what she’s endured as she bounces back to a more carefree way.
Sandé’s long-awaited follow-up ‘Long Live The Angels’ is a love affair between her love for the blues and gospel – an influence that comes from growing up in a spiritual environment. Her melodious flow streams through your veins as she creates a contemporary cinematic view of the past four years. News of Sandé’s sophomore album arrived with the intense ‘Hurts’, a handclap upbeat tempo with a larger-than-life thud coupled with a soaring chorus that leaves you with goosebumps. Spearheading a new direction with this song, as an opening to the new album, it’s compatibility with Emeli’s direct openness to pop mainstream is also palatable with a very real and raw emotion of pain “Baby, I’m not made of stone, it hurts!”
Bursting with heartstrings, this album is thrilling and sustains Sandé as a true talent. ‘Long Live the Angels’ boasts 15 tracks (+3 bonus tracks) and opens up the alum with a choir led rendition of ‘Selah’; a word used at the end of a verse in the book of Psalms and it usually means the end. Appropriately in this case it symbolises the end of her marriage and Emeli lets you in at the beginning of her journey – as she is reborn, emotionally, musically and spiritually.
Using a wraithlike and biblical approach to gospel-tinged ballad ‘Breathing Underwater’, rising with an euphoric and undeniable feeling of freedom, the aesthetics of the choir churn your heart to feel the suffocation of literally breathing under water. This leads us to ‘Happens’ –a vulnerable and powerful string-led ballad that ultimately segues into a beautiful and steady build-up to an unblemished climax. This is Emeli embracing everything she’s going through, she delicately whispers her croons and opens up a serge of clouds that penetrate unavoidable sun rays erupting in beautiful colours that represent her cocoa butter falsetto basking on sultry guitar stings and piercing emotion. This happened.
‘Give Me Something’ explores Emeli’s thoughts and feelings after her marriage ended and its as despondent and long-suffering as Sandé vocals which expertly flutter insistently: “Give me something I can believe in.” Pleading as though it were life or death. ‘Right Now’ is a tear jerker which everyone can relate to and if you’ve ever experienced love you’d know about the physical discomfort we endure as the former medical student refers to shivering in pain on ‘Shakes’.
On ‘Garden’ Sandé recruits hip-hop’s notorious and elusive rapper Jay Electronica. Reflecting on the ‘Garden’ as a sanctuary, Sandé’s experiment with this record bodes well and gives her a certain edge. Sonically and lyrically Sandé and Electronica are both intertwined with ones worldly torments and the others wounded heart. Introducing us to a new voice in the gifted poet Áine Zion, at the end of the song her words beautifully encapsulate Emeli’s desires.
‘I’d Rather Not’ is logical to her suffering; Emeli is standing her ground and accepting nothing less than her worth. She sings: “Your favorite bone was ‘Let’s just be friends’/Now you’re saying ‘Let’s try again’/But if it’s all the same, I’d rather not,” refusing to settle and reconcile a relationship that may be way too damaged to fix.
On the country-folk ‘Lonely’, Sandé explicitly depicts her heartache through beautiful song writing and hair-standing-on-you-neck vocals. “Sometimes I get lonely, some days you don’t know me” she continues “So come on let’s stop wasting all our energy, let’s stop wasting summer on our knees. Don’t lie to me; I know you felt the changes. Nothing’s new, it’s been this blue for ages.” Whilst the arrangements on ‘Sweet Architect’ scale the sound walls from acoustic unambiguity, a prayer harnessed in lofty choruses and gospel cry out the architect. The melodies are irresistible and silky.
‘Every Single Little Piece’ is a subtle rock ballad where she talks about being there, in all her entirety and not faltering “here I am and I’m all yours” immaculately laid out. Despite the deepened sadness of the album Emeli occasionally shows us glimpses of the heavy up-tempo beats that ‘Our Version of Events’ eluded us. ‘Tenderly’ features Emeli’s father Joel Sandé and The Serenje Choir, the Disney-esque ballad follows the acoustic pattern on the album, ‘High & Lows’ fuels your desire for a wedding song whereas on ‘Babe’ Emeli speaks on the possibility of finding love again.
Sandé with glee impressively displays her rapping and bilingual skills with ‘Kun Fu’ with cadences that come from her love for a culture she’s so embedded in. Whilst on ‘Somebody’ Emeli is surrounded by provocative piano strings – she sings, “tonight I am a big f deal, tonight I know just how it might feel to be somebody as if I’m really somebody”
Ending with ‘This Much is True’, a positive affirmation of what she feels and great way to close such a spectacular journey. Emeli’s powerhouse vocals soar through the octaves and we experience a more comfortable and free Sandé appealing not only to millennials but a wider-older audience. The Scottish soul soprano’s approach of break beats and thrilling bold honest lyrics define Sandé current musical direction
‘Long Live the Angels’ has a very strong spiritual element, its almost like her pain – which becomes a catalyst for her creativity. A melting pot boiling over with rich and silky soulful sopranos, embroiled with intelligent songwriting skills, it juxtaposes her romantic persona, her anger and love for spirituality – all sung with a consoling gospel choir canvas that projects Emeli’s experience perfectly.
Emeli’s light in her dark tumultuous tunnel illuminates through ‘Long Live The Angels’. Having gone through a dramatic period of biter-sweet change, Sandé, 29, gives you everything she’s learned experienced and healed from. It’s the sound of a woman, grown into herself, piecing her heart back together and doing it unapologetically. An eat pray love type of album with a purpose, maybe in time Emeli will find love again. Meantime bask in the glory of ‘Long Live The Angels’.