“Last night,” Emeli Sandé sings, borne aloft as her third album reaches its finale, “I had a dream that I could fly”.

Emile Sandé Real Life

She’s not the first to do so, to be honest, and nor is she the first to employ the song’s title, Free As A Bird: Supertramp, John Lennon and Louis Armstrong all got there before her Sandé, though, doesn’t appear interested in breaking new ground when she can preserve and revere old territory: Real Life immerses her in gospel soul traditions, with massed voices integral to its style, so if you’re comfortable with formulas, you won’t begrudge her
being formulaic.

Opener Human’s indicative of this, its Massive Attack groove and diva-esque wails calling for empathy and equality – “We’re all gonna bleed the same shade of rouge” – backed by the London Community Gospel choir, who take the spotlight amid You Are Not Alone’s old school reassurances and let rip on the propulsive Shine.

They dazzle, too, on the solemn Sparrow, overshadowing awkward images like “We spread love like the flowers give petals”, though the title track still feels more Whitney than Aretha.

If, however, Honest presents itself as a self-help musical, Extraordinary Being’s additional Philly disco strings are irresistible, however unoriginal.

7/10

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Wyndham Wallace

 

*review contains affiliate links

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