One may be forgiven for dismissing Sade’s Stronger Than Pride as something of a transitional album between Promise and Love Deluxe. Both albums are tighter than this one, with better songs and a more expansive sound. But what speaks to me here is the subtlety. The atmosphere imbued in every track of Stronger Than Pride is like water to me. There was a period of time in 2017 where I listened to this album every night, and it comforted me from the first second.
The title track is a sublime ballad, while “Paradise” is one of few upbeat tracks on the album. These two are highlights, but I love the second side of the record most. “Keep Looking” recalls the rhythms of Sade’s classic debut Diamond Life, where “Clean Heart” and “Give It Up” are more easygoing but with no less impact. I have a soft spot for songs with no drums, and the penultimate “I’d Never Thought I’d See the Day” fits the bill. “You shed a shadow on my life,” begins Sade over an ambient keyboard melody which acts as a platform for her to show off her vocal prowess.
Stronger Than Pride is almost perfect. Its weak spots are “Turn My Back On You”, which plods on for too long without much substance, and the instrumental closer “Siempre Hay Esperanza”, which would be eclipsed by Love Deluxe‘s much-stronger (also instrumental) closer “Mermaid”. But these tracks hardly negate the brilliance on display here. It’s not the Sade album I’d recommend to a beginner, but don’t underestimate it. Give it some patience and you’ll fall deeply in love.
Listen to Stronger Than Pride on Spotify.