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It’s always exciting to get an album from an international artist who hasn’t yet it made it big overseas. We may not know her name yet in the States, but Emeli Sandé is certainly not new to the ears of Brits. A Scottish soul and R&B recording artist and songwriter, Sandé collaborated with Alicia Keys, her booming voice was featured on rapper Chipmunk’s single, “Diamond Rings”, and her lyrics were sung by established stars like Susan Boyle and Tinie Tempah.
This established her as a musical force to be reckoned with, and she signed a publishing deal in 2010 to begin working on a debut album. Although it’s been out in the UK since February, Our Version of Events was just released in the US on July 5th.
Sandé can easily be already compared to the likes of Leona Lewis, Jennifer Hudson, and yes, even Beyonce. She has the vocals, passion and tough attitude to keep up, but she understands a breath-catching belt isn’t all it takes. “People think they can be songwriters because they are singers, but it’s an art,” she told Britain’s Daily Mirror. “You need to work hard on your voice, but equally you have to understand reading a lyric. I am working on it.”
Her first single, “Heaven”, is a quintessential diva’s hit with a catchy chorus, fast drumline, dramatic piano and violin, and even a gospel choir. “Daddy”, the second single off the album, begins like a darker Amy Winehouse ballad, with low notes and accusatory lyrics. “Maybe” is a beautiful break-up song, with simple lines about painfully holding on to love lost.
The balance of song styles within Our Version of Events is what makes it an album to listen to until the end. There are the tracks we’ll hear blasting out of open car windows this summer, like “Where I Sleep”, “Heaven”, and “Next to Me”, but then there’s the ones you’ll play late at night in your room alone, like “Mountains” and “Clowns”.
Despite her musical similarities to today’s divas, Sandé holds on to great songwriters of the past such as Nina Simone. “A lot of the songs these days are for the moment,” she told the Mirror. “They make us feel good and we can dance to them, but the poetry has been lost. Great songwriters come along quite rarely, but when I listen to Tracy Chapman or Joni Mitchell, these are people who pay attention to the lyric.”
2012 has been a huge year for Sandé as she becomes a breakout star. At the 2012 Brit Awards, she was nominated for British Breakthrough Act and won the Critics Choice award. “To win a Brit Award so early in my career is beyond a dream come true,” she told the BBC after her win.
Here in the United States, Sandé’s ride has just begun. She’s headed on an east coast tour with Coldplay this month, stopping at Boston’s TD Garden on July 29th and 30th.