Highlights: Emeli Sandé, ‘Long Live the Angels’


Emeli Sandé, Long Live the Angels © Virgin

★★★★

Eclectic pop singer/songwriter Emeli Sandé brings the heat on her incredible sophomore album, ‘Long Live the Angels.’

After a four-year hiatus, 29-year old British singer/songwriter Emeli Sandé returns with her sophomore album, Long Live the Angels. Sandé built buzz with three excellent promo singles, the initial buzz was built with flawless promo single “Hurts.” She followed up the intriguing “Garden,” assisted by Jay Electronica and Àine Zion.  She sent the anticipation full throttle on “Breathing Underwater.” Beyond early standouts, Long Live the Angels as a whole proves to be a fantastic, magnificently assembled affair.  

“Breathing Underwater”

“Breathing Underwater” proves to be one of the album’s strongest, most inspired moments. It’s filled with lush sounds from the onset, establishing itself as something of an adult contemporary R&B song. Expectedly, the vocals are radiant, yielding a well-rounded performance, filled with nuance and authenticity. Sandé is experiencing and reacting to a range of emotions, most notably the loss of love.  By the end, a supporting gospel choir further amplifies the performance, highlighting a most memorable refrain:

“Something like flying / hard to describe it / My God, I’m breathing underwater / something like freedom, freedom / My God, I’m breathing underwater.”

“Hurts”

“Hurts” gives Long Live the Angels more tempo, something necessary after three ballads.  In addition to being quicker, “Hurts” is more electrifying, providing more oomph and bite.  Notably, there’s a hip-hop sensibility about the melodic lines, as Sandé sheds through the lyrics agilely and assertively.  It all comes down to the chorus, which chocked full of power despite the pain:

“Baby, I’m not made of stone, it hurts / loving you the way I do, it hurts / when all that’s left to do is watch it burn / oh baby, I’m not made of stone, it hurts.”

“Garden”

Standout “Garden,” featuring Jay Electronica and Àine Zion, arrives timely. Much like “Hurts,” “Garden” gives the album a different look. It features unique production work that is firmly planted in the urban contemporary vein. The pace is slow and grinding, but laden with swagger. Excellent, hard drums buttress the song. Zion handles intro and outro duties, both spoken word. Jay Electronic offers a respectable, enjoyable guest verse.  As always, Sandé shines, riding the production like a beast.

“I’d Rather Not” is lushly produced, once more finding Sandé singing in an undertone – most of the time. The sound is more soulfully-driven, leaning towards R&B.  Essentially, she’s unwilling to have her heart broken again – it’s not worth it. By the bridge, she projects her full voice, singing:

“See, when it was good it was amazing / but the bad was devastating / we could never seem to find an in-between / and God knows I know you / and nothing came before you / and I don’t have the heart to risk what’s left of me.”

“Every Single Little Piece”

Another choir joins her on “Tenderly” – The Serenje Choir.  Additionally, Sandé’s father, Joel Sandé appears. The results are respectable, with an increase in pace and assertive vocals eliminating predictability.  She sounds terrific on passionate, mid-tempo gem “Every Single Little Piece,” singing her face off.  Authenticity truly sells “Every Single Little Piece” as she convincingly asserts:

“Oh, every single little piece of me / oh, every tear and every drop I bleed / oh, every prayer and every breath I breathe / oh, every single little piece of me.”

Final Thoughts

All said and done, Emeli Sandé delivers the goods on Long Live the Angels.  She does an exceptional job conveying her vulnerability on the ballads and quick cuts alike.  Arguably there are one too many ballads, but the silver lining is how well she performs them. Vocally, she never misses a beat.  While the three pre-release singles represent the crème de la crème, there are plenty of worthwhile moments to be found throughout the course of the album.

Gems: “Breathing Underwater,” “Hurts,” “Garden,” “I’d Rather Not” & “Every Single Little Piece”

 Emeli Sandé • Long Live the Angels • Virgin • Release: 11.11.16 
Photo Credit: Virgin

A full track-by-track review of the album can be found at The Musical Hype.

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