album review: emeli sandé, our version of events
I feel like there are almost no words to describe the effect of Emeli Sandé’s music on me. As a smooth and powerfully-voiced woman with a predilection for melancholy tunes, it seems almost inevitable that she’ll draw comparisons to chart-topper du jour, Adele. However, Sandé’s efforts to me seem richer and overall more mature. Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’ might have the science backing up its absurdly cathartic nature, but in listening to Sandé I feel a greater overall impact. Let’s think of it this way—Adele’s output so far has proven to be like emotional porn. You get yourself riled up, you get your quick fix and, with an exhalation, you are abruptly off the rollercoaster of feelings (this is in no way intended as a denigration of Adele or her music…or as a legitimate simile).
In comparison, listening to Our Version of Events on repeat—as I have been doing, compulsively—is like drowning in a bath tub that fills up inch by inch…with regrets. But it’s a nice way to go because the composition of every track is so loving, and the lyrics so beautifully genuine and Sandé’s voice so delightful, that you feel awash with especially supportive empathy. It’s draining, but in the way that truly special music can be; it’s not for the background, it’s not there to make you feel comfortable. My engagement with this album astounds me.
One of the major strengths of Events overall is that it’s never too distressing; you’re not being bludgeoned through your ear holes with angst. Sandé strikes a balance between rhythm and lyricism and reaches a medium that is suitably profound. For example, contrast the tracks ‘Heaven’ and then ‘My Kind of Love’. While ‘Heaven’ actually sounds quite upbeat, Sandé conveys moody anxiety as she asks, “Will you recognise me/in the flashing light?/I try to keep my heartbeat/but I can’t get it right.”
‘My Kind of Love’ takes the opposite tack—it seems more mournful then it is. Sandé manages to convey the anxiety and vulnerability inherent in loving someone in the midst of describing what she would do should they be anxious and vulnerable. It’s an uplifting expression of love that’s simultaneously imbued with depth as she implies its costs.
Other tracks of note: ‘Maybe’ (maybe) showcases the tail-end of a relationship—Sandé vacillates between sweetly singing “Maybe it’s time to go/Maybe we could make this work”. ‘Next to Me’ is rousing and spirited, perhaps the more cheerful companion to ‘My Kind of Love’. ‘River’ is gentle, simple and beautiful: “So follow me/I’ll be your river river/I’ll do the running for you/follow me”.
In short—this is wonderful music. It is deeply affecting while being technically impressive on all levels. Sandé has stated that she doesn’t work on songs for longer than a day, believing that the creative process falters if she works on something “too smart”. Listening to Events, this is readily apparent. Her music as a whole is deft and accomplished but there is a compulsive energy running throughout that makes the experience of listening to it extraordinarily heartfelt. I think this is testament to Sandé’s skill as a musician and I look forward to her future output.
Basically, do whatever you need to do in order to get this album in your possession. And then be prepared to wallow in the hands of a master.
By Alix Foley