Editor’s Note: The Albumism staff has selected what we believe to be the 100 Most Dynamic Debut Albums Ever Made, representing a varied cross-section of genres, styles and time periods. Click “Next Album” below to explore each album or view the full album index here.
Fresh off the freewheeling, organic ‘70s, the ‘80s ushered in new wave music and synthesized R&B, the antithesis to sounding natural. Besides Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, who were labeled R&B but leaned more towards power pop, the other popular soul singers during this time were established legends like Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight. Anita Baker had a unique, jazzy sound with a lot of range, and someone who was neck and neck with her, but with an exotic flair, was Sade Adu and her band Sade. When Diamond Life was released in July of 1984 in the U.K. and in February of 1985 in the U.S., it would go on to become one of the top-selling debut albums of the decade and decades to come.
Diamond Life's nine tracks are an intoxicating blend of sophisti-pop, jazz and soul, with a strong afro-rhythm backbeat and a touch of ska. Groups like Culture Club and Simply Red also relied on afro-rhythm beats, but Sade's mix was slower, jazzier, sexier, a prototype for neo soul. There were four hits off the album, "Smooth Operator," "When Am I Going to Make a Living," "Hang on to Your Love,” and “Your Love is King.” Cool as autumn's kiss, Sade's catlike grace and sensual persona were as important as the music itself. Her smooth jazz tapped into the “quiet storm” era like no other artist, and it’s safe to say that this album was indeed a diamond.