1001 Songs Challenge,  1980s,  Music

1001 Songs Challenge #617: Smooth Operator (1984)

On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenge of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.

My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.

I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.

So long as I post every day (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be… legendary!


Sade – Smooth Operator (1984)

We continue in the UK, dear reader, and find ourselves in London once more. Sade were formed in 1983 and took their name from the singer, Helen Folasade Adu, also known as Sade Adu. The group dabbled in multiple styles with pop, soul and jazz being just some of the ingredients in the recipe of their music. When we join the band in 1984 their debut album, Diamond Life, has been released and from there 1001 Songs have gone with the track – Smooth Operator.

In Smooth Operator Sade sings of a man that she is in love with but he is one who treats her pretty badly. It sounds like this guy is very wealthy and travels far and wide, breaking hearts wherever he goes. The narrator is still besotted but has to look on helplessly as the man focuses on other women, new conquests for him to claim, and she is left heartbroken by his inattention. The narrator warns others that this guy is not for the faint hearted and worse still we hear mention of love being for sale which could suggest this guy has lined his pockets as a pimp, pushing innocent women towards eager paying customers and a life of prostitution. It seems there are few winners here other than the “smooth operator” himself. 

Smooth Operator is both pop and jazz all rolled into one. A memorable use of the saxophone coupled with Sade’s silkily smooth vocals make this one enchanting to the ear. Diamond Life would be critically acclaimed upon release and Smooth Operator, though not the leading single from the album, helped to break the US market for the band. The group continue to this day though they have had multiple hiatuses, often disappearing for years at a time, before coming back to wow the critics once more.


Favourite songs so far:

The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)

Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)

The Doors – The End (1967)

The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)

Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell (1977)

Queen – Don’t Stop Me Now (1978)

The Police – Message in a Bottle (1979)

Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart (1980)

Ultravox – Vienna (1980)

My name is Dave and I live in Yorkshire in the north of England and have been here all my life. I hope you enjoy your visit to All is Ephemeral.

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