Generations apart

Posted on 26 Feb 2010 at 12:25am
By RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

Sade and Selena Gomez occupy opposite sides of the pop music spectrum

4 out of 5 Stars
SOLDIER OF LOVE • Sade • Epic

Buzz is big over Sade’s comeback and after a decade away from her last album, Lovers Rock, she returns with her classic sound in Soldier of Love. She may be one of the few artists who can thrive without much change in style: Soldier is textbook Sade, but that doesn’t make it less thrilling.

The album eases us into it with "The Moon and the Sky." It sounds as if you could find it on any previous Sade disc, but that serves only as her message to listeners not to worry — she hasn’t strayed far from familiar territory.

The title track does add some nice drum layers to her delivery with the slight marching band drum action shining under the heavy bass and her sultry voice.  Her songs typically groove along but it ends with a hypnotic drone that almost lets you soak in the song after taking in the high points.

"Morning Bird" and "Long Hard Road" are both sleepy tunes waiting to be played on a lazy afternoon. This is where Sade excels. Even with an almost monotone delivery, she can still create engaging mini-epics in less than four minutes.

RETURN OF A CLASSIC | Despite a decade-long absence, Sade brims with confidence to stick with her signature style in ‘Soldier of Love.’

"Skin" is the CD’s most interesting song, and it’s sexy as hell … but perhaps one of the cruelest breakup songs ever. She spares no mercy with lyrics like "Now as I begin to wash you off my skin / I’m gonna peel you away / ‘Cause you’re not right within." She aims for the heart and not only stabs it, but twists the knife.

Earlier in the album though, "Babyfather" is a sweet ode to a child. With a reggae groove, Sade touches tenderly on the love between a father and his daughter. (She should consider writing greeting cards during her long lapses between albums.)

Sade though saves her sexiest for last with "The Safest Place." It’s more romance when she sings of lonely warriors and heaven’s eye but it has foreplay written all over it. The song stands still but it keeps its sensuality without boring the listener.

The magic of Sade is she knows how not to misstep yet she never feels calculated. These songs unfurl like a like an ornately constructed rug. A rug that you’ll then want to lay on while taking in Soldier of Love.

1.5 out of 5 Stars
KISS & TELL • Selena Gomez and the Scene • Hollywood

Selena Gomez is a Disney product right out of Los Angeles by way of Dallas. The Mouse House machine is hocking her as the next Miley Cyrus and her debut Kiss and Tell may do just that for her.

The album is full of the expected pop confections and opens with the title track complete with suburban rebel girl guitar riff and boppy beats. It’s a disorienting song with its lack of sensible construction. Clearly this song is supposed to have Gomez crashing out of the gate like a hard rocking pop tart. Instead, she trips and falls.

Gomez finds some redemption in "I Won’t Apologize," an earnest bubblegum tune that’s enjoyably listenable. (It’s also the one song on which she’s listed as a co-writer. Maybe this girl has potential as a well-rounded artist as opposed to being a mere product.)

The album is flavored with similar tracks that aren’t too hard on the ears, but they are suffocated by Gomez’s attempt at being a pop-rocker chick with erratic high-energy songs echoing the title song. When the album abruptly finishes with "Tell Me Something I Don’t Know," you feel relief after the battering of candy-flavored music that tastes like Sour Patch Kids, minus the sweet surprise.

POP ROCKS | The Disney machine churns out another pop starlet but Selena Gomez has homework to do before catching up with the likes of seasoned Disney diva, Miley Cyrus.

Gomez is not the greatest singer — she’s nowhere in the Christina Aguilera realm — but at 17, she may be too young to fairly judge for that. Her coos on "The Way I Loved You" display some range, but by the end of the CD, it’s a forgotten thought.
The album will play well for automaton ‘tweens, which is what it’s geared for, but as for whether Miley’s up late at night, Disney has some work to do before Gomez becomes the next anybody.     

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 19, 2010.

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