RATING: ★★★★★(Five stars)
Written by Brittany Shawnté
It's been over four years since Emeli Sandé dropped her debut album, Our Version of Events, back in 2012, and I've been anxiously awaiting more music from her ever since. Sure, she dropped a few songs and was featured on collabs here and there, but not a full project, and I've been literally craving more! So when the singer-songwriter revealed that she would be dropping her sophomore album, Long Live The Angels, I was too happy. Emeli is an amazing creative, and her vocals are off the charts, so I was ready for whatever she had for us.
I decided to take some time with this album before I reviewed (as I will with all of my reviews in the future), to read the lyrics, do some research and digging on the subject, and truly listen to the music. Long Live The Angels is proof that, sadly, heartbreak and pain brings about some of your best work. With her debut, which was still great, Emeli focused on more inspiring themes about love, being a good person, hope for the world. A few break up songs, but it was mostly positive. However, this one is even more personal, heartbreaking, and vulnerable, after Emeli's divorce from her longtime love, Adam Gouraguine, in November 2014. Throughout the album, Emeli takes on her journey to recovery, as we hear her express her hurt and loneliness behind the break up, but, ultimately, her hope for a better future for herself.
The album begins with the calming "Selah." The Hebrew meaning of the word isn't entirely known, but it has been said to be a musical direction of some sort, possibly calling for a break in singing. That could directly be connected to Emeli's break from music for a while, taking some time to find herself again in her new normal. In addition to this song, throughout the album, there are many elements of Emeli's spirituality, from gospel influences on tracks like lead single "Hurts" to direct prayers and questions Emeli sings to God like throughout "Give Me Something," and "Sweet Architect," as she attempts to figure out where her life is headed next. It shows that her own spirituality has strengthened her as she tries to move forward.
But don't get confused. This is not a gospel album or even an inspirational album. This is very much an album of someone trying to figure out what the hell does she do now after losing someone who she was with for almost 10 years of her life. From the mellow songs like "Happen" and Emeli reveals how loyal she was and would give anything for her love. Another stand out track, "Garden," featuring Aine Zion and Jay Electronica, shows that their love was passionate and free, but also a safe place. However, when the relationship ended, it broke her. On "Right Now," she knows deep down she'll be okay eventually, but she doesn't want to hear that from her ex or anyone else for that matter. "Don't you dare say tomorrow. I'm talking 'bout right now...who's gonna love me right now?"
"Hurts" was perfect as a single because it works well commercially. It's powerful and strong, and downright catchy. But it's a standout track on the album because of the lyrics, the dark undertone, the gospel influence (and an amazing gospel choir singing throughout) and Emeli's vocals. Her voice always gives me serious chills, but her vocals were so incredibly mighty on this song! And it's here Emeli expresses her pain openly for the first time on the project. She knows she's a strong girl, but she admits shes "not made of stone," and the end of their relationship, though she still deeply loves this man, is devastating to her.
Though her ex eventually tries to get back together, Emeli ultimately decides not to look back on the mid-tempo "I'd Rather Not," and it's like it's the start of her getting back to who she was. Towards the end of the album, she becomes more hopeful and positive, like on "Every Single Little Piece," even believing that, one day, she'll find love again, and that she will still give her all in that relationship in spite of what may have happened previously. I'll say this, though it's at the beginning of the album, Emeli's soulful "Breathing Underwater" is really the climatic piece, featuring angelic strings and gospel vocals that will have you ready to shout! She has this strong sense of freedom and happiness now, swimming freely through her life as is.
Yes, the album is pretty melancholy 75% throughout, but it tells a complete story of Emeli's life over these past few years, it seems. I could say that this album needs more upbeat tracks, but I loved that she took us through her journey as a person. That's way more important. The musicality was still strong throughout the project, featuring work from producers like Naughty Boy and Chris Loco, and the lyrics and Emeli's fire as she sang that really brought the project to life! Definitely an album that y'all should check out.