Released in 1984, Sade’s Diamond Life is one of the most fully realized debut albums of the last 40 years—an influential worldwide smash whose influence continues to ripple through popular music today. The album’s nine songs—eight originals, plus a brooding cover of R&B singer Timmy Thomas’ 1973 hit “Why Can’t We Live Together”—seemingly hover in the space they occupy, like light glimmering off of a city street late at night after fresh rain. Arriving smack dab in the middle of the 1980s, Diamond Life’s release came just as “quiet storm” R&B became a dominant force on Black radio stations in the US—and the music of this British quartet, led by Sade Adu, would come to define the genre for a multitude of listeners. But Diamond Life is by no means a record situated in time; the music sounds and feels eternal, far beyond the ways in which its DNA has been incorporated into modern-day neo-soul and R&B. Recorded over the course of six weeks in London’s legendary Power Plant Studios, Diamond Life—and Sade as an entity—was born out of Adu’s previous gig as a backup singer for the band Pride. She formed a songwriting partnership with Stuart Matthewman, the band’s guitarist and saxophonist; the duo would eventually team with Pride members Paul Denman (bass) and Paul Anthony Cooke (drums) to break off and form Sade. The group’s catalog as a whole is often associated with romance and sensuality, but the songs on Diamond Life often bear the mark of hardship and uncertainty: The smoldering “Sally” is a tribute of sorts to the open charity of the Salvation Army, while the bold and cautiously optimistic “When Am I Going to Make a Living” was inspired by Adu not being able to pay a dry-cleaning ticket. But the cool-handed interplay Sade showcases on Diamond Life betrayed its status as a relatively new group, featuring a sound so natural, it feels as though the members had been playing for decades already. The word “timeless” has never felt so deeply earned.