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Originally published Thursday, August 11, 2011 at 7:00 PM

Sade breaks her silence and drops her guard

Sade's 2010 album "Soldier of Love" was her first public moment since finishing off a world tour in 2001. Her U.S. tour comes to Seattle's KeyArena on Aug. 14.

The Washington Post

Concert preview

Sade

Sade, with John Legend, 8 p.m. Sunday, KeyArena, Seattle; $64.89-$171.30 (www.ticketmaster,com; 800-745-3000).
quotes This will be a great show on Sunday. I've written an essay, a retrospective of my... Read more

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At 52, one of the most magnetic singers of our time sips lukewarm coffee from a paper cup in downtown Baltimore and tries to explain how music's inexplicable gravity pulled her out of a nine-year silence.

"It's that feeling that you can get a little bit better," Sade says. "That there's somewhere to go and you haven't expressed it all."

Sade is referring to her 2010 album "Soldier of Love," her first public moment since finishing off a world tour in 2001 and retreating to her home in Gloucestershire, England, to give her young daughter, Ila, her undivided attention.

Her invisibility solidified her reputation as the great sphinx of modern R&B, but "Soldier of Love" stands as Sade's most expressive album. She describes its creation as both "a mission" and "a spiritual experience" — a John Coltrane-ish pursuit of a sound that comes from within, yet remains forever out of reach.

"I think I'm getting better at letting it out," she says. "When I'm in the studio, my guard is down. I don't have any feeling that I should be protecting myself in any way — which is good, because then I can say it like it is."

Sade's faithful fans kept "Soldier of Love" at the top of the Billboard albums chart for three consecutive weeks last year, but the singer says that dropping her guard for those same fans in real time is far more difficult.

Sade's been a dogged guardian of her privacy — something she protects even more fiercely in the era of social media. "People are so used to having their lives filmed, they're not even conscious of having cameras around," Sade says. "I still have that sort of suspicion when a camera comes out. I view it as a thing to fear."

That might make this tour especially terrifying — the technology sleeping in her fans' pockets has changed so much since her last tour.

Sade is also the name of her four-piece band — saxophonist-guitarist Stuart Matthewman, bassist Paul S. Denman, keyboardist Andrew Hale — which has sold more than 55 million albums.

Launching Sade's U.S. tour at Baltimore's 1st Mariner Arena this month, she opens her set with "Soldier of Love." But it's the group's more billowy hits — "The Sweetest Taboo," "Your Love Is King," "Cherish the Day," "No Ordinary Love" — that cause the audience to sway like a field of uncut grass, singing along as if they've lived her lyrics.

Sade loves this. "Once a song's out there, it's no longer mine," she says. "And that's the whole purpose of music: to belong to people."

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