For years that refrain of “this is no ordinary love/no ordinary love” held an enduring fascination for me. In hindsight I probably should have left it to memory.
I should have listened to all the ways in which Sade’s music was described: this was a purveyor of super-slick, super-polished, slinky pop-soul and I was hoping that this song would take me beyond that, would transcend. But I went ahead and bought catalogue number Epic 658 356 7 on 7″ a few years ago.
I still think there is a great song in there, it’s just that it’s hidden under layers of production sheen and surgical musical touches that present us with a heart preserved in amber, a paperweight scene encased in glass, an ornament where there should be a throbbing, visceral, mess of pain and devotion.
I suppose the building of the legend over the years was helped by dim memories of the video which invoked the myth of mermaids to generate additional echoes of grandeur in the song’s sentiments. What was I thinking ? The video is as slick as the song: glistening with refracted light, tastefully punctuated with soft focus, the undersea interspersed with Sade fashioned up to the nines on dockside.
I love soul, but I have always felt a huge surge of disappointment with the way in which the genre developed. Soul is at its best when it strikes the balance between high-class songwriting and musicianship (and it is a genre that demands GREAT vocals), and rawness.
There is nothing unprofessional for example about the output of a soul titan like Otis Redding, but the artists and producers involved knew when enough was enough, and when they reached that point they left the songs with enough room to breathe. As soul came into closer contact and partnership with pop ever-more instruments crowded into the mix and the individual elements bled all over each other.
I’m still nagged at by the chorus and the promise of greater things is still audible for example in the unusually powerful guitar underneath, but I’ve given up on the original; instead I’ll be searching for someone to cover ‘No Ordinary Love’ and find its heart, perhaps hidden somewhere at the bottom of the ocean.
The less said about the disposable ‘Paradise’ the better. It ticks all the negatives mentioned above. And please, stop wasting my time with remixes on the b-side.