Where Diamond Life focused on Sade’s patented brand of taut, stealthy funk, Promise is more of a smoky jazz outing. “Punch Drunk” and “You’re Not the Man” come close to traditional nightclub jazz. Bolstered by double bass and wandering piano, these songs give Sade the opportunity to play the nightclub chanteuse. Of course, the band has not lost its feel for velvet funk, as evidenced by the album’s big hits, “Never As Good As the First Time” and “The Sweetest Taboo". While Sade is generally known for her seductive powers, Promise is notable for its portraits of other women. “Maureen” and “Jezebel” show females in the midst of loss and transformation, and each song assumes a stunningly empathetic point of view. Most striking of all is “Tar Baby”, which delves into a portrayal of heroin addiction: “Like a brand new blade/You cut into my life/Cut through two decades/Like a hot coal on ice.”

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