Sade: A Brand In Spite of, and Because of, Her Authentic Self

“Sade, London, 1992” by Albert Watson. Lover’s Deluxe (’92) Album Cover.*

Upon reading Jacob Bernstein’s New York Times article “Quiet Storm of Cool” (10.25.17) documenting Sade’s career success due to her authenticity, a question sparked for me. Was her commitment to grace, integrity and knowing her herself, her unique point of difference which resonated with legions of people?

Could it be that for all, artists and laymen, that we desire our worldly success to be predicated upon more substantial things than beauty & talent alone? Given Sade’s worldwide reign, let’s explore and see why her love was king.

Sade, a music & style icon, for 4 decades, is not a fan of publicity or marketing. Sade is not a fan of being overly sexual. Sade is not a fan of telling her personal business.

Sade is a true artist who sought to share her light, through her lyrics, with the world. This is her brand. And she consistently delivered from Diamond Life (’84) through Soldier of Love (‘10).

Sade, B. Gomer, Getty Images

Across four decades, Sade has only released seven albums in ’84, ’85, ’88, ’92, ’00, ’02 and & ’10 (note the long stretches in between), with no brand endorsements and minimal publicity except relative to the album launches, I ponder how she became the brand that she did.

As an adjunct professor of marketing integration, one of the things I study and discuss in detail is brand integration inside consumer passion points, such as music, TV, film and gaming. The theory behind such brand & entertainment property alignments is that a brand can borrow something of intangible value from an artist to drive interest, choice and affinity resulting in sales growth. The examples are plentiful from Nicki Minaj & Myxx + Beats By Dre, Maroon 5 & Snapple, Gwen Stefani & Target, Migos & Chanel (product placement inside Bad & Boujee video), Jay-Z & Belvedere, and many more. Emerging brands often seek legitimacy from brand sponsorship as well (I recall many of these from club deals at Live Nation).

Sade’s simple, unforced, yet distinct beauty and presence, let alone her style and smooth voice, transported me beyond Memphis, TN (as I was her #1 11-year old fan). Through Sade, I experienced love (Love Is Stronger Than Pride and Your Love Is King), I experienced life (Jezebel and Maureen). Helen Sade Adu, a sophisticated, petite, and demure woman was an undeniable force in the universe because of her boldness in her beliefs (per Bernstein’s article, it’s speculated that she declined a remix of “Pearls” due to Somalian civil wars). As my appreciation of music grew, I began to understand that she was much more than an artist, she was a force.

Sade became synonymous because we respected her. Her simplicity, elegance, grace and sincerity in how she showed up for the world resonated with human beings internationally. She also inspires today’s artists. Note how Nicki Minaj was styled to chanel Sade in her recent T Magazine photoshoot.

Nicki Minaj, New York Times T Magazine, October 13, 2017. Photo: Patrick Demarchelier. Styled by Marie-Amélie Sauvé

Irrespective of race, class, gender and religion, the mixed-race Sade stood for values to which we all aspired. Sade was not the most gifted vocalist in the world, so didn’t compete on that. She didn’t compete with Chaka, Aretha, Celine. While she had a beautiful exterior (amazing figure, the long braid, the hoops), she didn’t compete on sexuality, like Cher, Tina, Diana (or her era contemporaries Toni Braxton, Karyn White, Jody Watley, although she could have). Note to all, to find what works for you and stay in your lane.

Sade, Soldier of Love, ‘10

Instead, by knowing who she is and giving the world all of who she is, Sade gave the world a gift. She embodied “to thine own self be true” — at all times, at all costs. Bank on more than physical attributes and even talent, give authenticity to the world. So, whoever we are born being, be it loud, quiet, athletic, bold, smart, we will succeed in our own life’s journey if we spend less time externally, and more time internally getting to the core of who we are. When our quest is self-contentment, preservation and an commitment to an internal moral compass which only you create, we can live a consistent, on-purpose and intentional life, every day.

Great article & inspiration @BernsteinJacob and Eric Martin‏. Thank you.

*Image appeared in “Quiet Storm of Cool” by @BernsteinJacob