Emeli Sandé – Let’s Say For Instance

Chrysalis Records Limited

Release Date: May 6th 2022

Reviewed by: Joshua Andre

Emeli Sandé– Let’s Say For Instance (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing:

  1. Family
  2. Look What You’ve Done (feat. Jaykae)
  3. July 25th
  4. Oxygen
  5. Summer
  6. My Pleasure
  7. There Isn’t Much
  8. September 8th
  9. Look In Your Eyes
  10. Ready To Love
  11. Wait For Me
  12. Another One
  13. Yes You Can
  14. Brighter Days
  15. Superhuman
  16. World Go Round

This album really means so much to me, because I took a lot of risks, followed my instinct and just going for what genres felt good. I kind of risked it all on this album, it’s the first album I’ve made independently, once it was made I found Chrysalis records, they loved it. It was great to approach a company with the album already formed, I found the whole process super empowering. It just feels like my most personal project, I’m just so excited to give it to the people and see what they think because I feel this time I’m really handing myself over. I’ve kind of finally caught up with myself in terms of life and music. At times, I’ve felt my music is a bit ahead of me, and I’m kind of catching up in my life. But this time it really feels like both have come parallel with each other. It’s just me in through the music.

You get into this mindset of trying to make things over perfect, or trying to be over controlling of things. That’s the biggest lesson I learned from the past few years – we really don’t have control. Any minute now someone can say you have to stay in your house, or that you no longer have a job, you can no longer perform. When I realised, essentially I have no control, [I thought] let me just be and let the music breathe and it is what it is. Maybe people like it, maybe they won’t, but it’s allowed me just to relax and stop trying to control everything.

At the beginning of 2021, I decided to make a conscious effort to dive deep into other genres of music that I wouldn’t normally have listened to if I had my way back in the mid-2000’s. I don’t think it’s been a secret, but it’s something I haven’t advertised that much- and it is that I was heavily into Delirious? and Carman in the 90’s and 2000’s- and maybe had it not been for me branching out and listening to artists like Steven Curtis Chapman, Rebecca St. James, Newsboys, Casting Crowns and Michael W. Smith; I don’t think I would have had the love of this much variety musically and the expansive genres of music that I now listen to today. For me my mainstream music listening journey in effect started in 2019- and it’s been a joyous and worthwhile and knowledgeable 3+ years, as I’ve discovered how nuanced music actually is and how ‘not-evil’ the mainstream music is. Still, I listened to artists pertaining to my blogs or Jon’s blogs, and nothing much else. Yet starting from last year onwards, at least in terms of reviews though; I’ve kind of had an epiphany of sorts. That in order to broaden my horizons, and to see what God is saying to me and to the world and about a wide range of relevant topics, I’d have to listen to, enjoy and appreciate a whole other wide variety of music- mainstream included and not just when I’m blogging about. This resulted in me reviewing albums, EP’s and singles from many ‘unfamiliar’ artists. In 2021 I dived deep into listening to artists like Blake Shelton, Olivia Rodrigo, Diane Warren, Camila Cabello, Ashley Cooke, Ben Platt, Dan + Shay, Anne-Marie, Aly & AJ, Meghan Patrick, Jimmie Allen, Bella Taylor Smith and Bebe Rexha. While in 2022, I took the plunge and explored Walker Hayes, Ella Henderson, Ben Rector, Miranda Lambert, Erin Kinsey, Mark Vincent, Tate McRae, Sigrid and even Lady Gaga. And I have loved, enjoyed and appreciated every one of these releases- they’ve each taught me something profound and inspiring about God and about life in general. And now, can I add another ‘mainstream’ artist and album to the list of favourites of 2021 and 2022 that I hadn’t thought I’d listen to? Side note- I don’t really like the word ‘mainstream’ as it implies that there is a divide between Christian music and ‘non-Christian’ music… which there shouldn’t be. Regardless though, Scottish R&B/soul/gospel singer Emeli Sandé’s latest album Let’s Say For Instance, is an album that will fly by under the radar. But it’s an album worth listening to, as we are glimpsed into Emeli’s world and are shared a part of her story, a part of her that makes her human, and a part of her that is sure to provide comfort and healing to all who listen.

It was definitely a conscious decision to try and offer something to people that will make them feel better, and also just remind to them of the beauty of being human, being alive. We get so much news that’s depressing and dark and with all the division that’s going on, it’s such a shame to see people forgetting that actually, to be alive in the first place is quite a miracle. For us to be able to communicate is incredible. I really wanted to offer in this album ‘okay, let’s have a bit fun’. If we can make people dance, let’s do that. If we can make people feel something, yes you can. Let’s just make sure that it’s not necessarily for me expressing my introspective emotions, this is more projecting outwards. That was the hardest part, that connection with the crowd, the only way you could do it was through the internet, which is cool and it’s nice that we’re in such an advanced place technologically but there’s nothing that can replace sitting next to somebody or being on stage and the sweat in the room. Just smelling other human beings. I really wanted to remind people that we’re super humans, this is fantastic. Let’s just get over these little details and remind yourself of what’s really going on. It helped me making the music through the process but that’s always been my attitude. My whole family, we’re just always optimistic, even if it’s a tough situation. How I grew up as a kid feeling very different, I always tried to think let’s not let it get us down, let’s try and find the strength or the positive side to this. That brought more of that out during these past couple of years for sure.

Do you need to know everything about an artist before you listen to an album of theirs for the first time? Some would say yes, but I reckon it doesn’t really matter. Of course, you’d love to have the same values and core beliefs of who you are listening to, but if that artist moves you in your walk of life, I reckon having someone challenging you is equally as impacting and hard-hitting as someone agreeing with you. In the case of Emeli Sandé and her latest album; she probes and probes and asks question after question. She inspires and provides healing and comfort as well, and as a listener you can’t help but be touched and blessed by these anthems, no matter how you relate to the songs. I first was introduced to Emeli in Ronan Keating’s 2020 single “One Of A Kind”… but as I briefly backtracked throughout her discography, I found plenty of songs from Emeli that I resonated with. None of these songs are popular to the world at large, but “Next To Me” deserves special attention as Emeli took the world by storm in 2012. Considering that I was basically approaching Let’s Say For Instance like a ‘debut’ album… can I say that this release is incredibly uplifting, and deserves many listens as we are presented with an overall ‘happy’ album that is designed to lift our spirits? Album opener “Family” is an EDM infused pop melody where Emeli powerfully and eloquently sings out that adversity is just another obstacle for us all to overcome, and that with friends and family (and God!) by our side, we can overcome anything. Musically, this melody is probably on the experimental side, however lyrically, this song lets us know that we can rise above our demons and our vices, and that we can be the best version of ourselves that we can be.

The rest of Let’s Say For Instance embarks on a storytelling journey of topics so deep to Emeli’s soul and spirit, and it’s hard not to react positively to everything Emeli is singing about. “Look What You’ve Done”, with rapper Jaykae, is an experimental track where Emeli sings to an unnamed person and tells them that she has fallen head over heels for them, telling them ‘look what you’ve done to me’- not in a bad way but in a way that makes her come alive with joy and happiness. With this song being about the moment you realise that you’re in a relationship, and it makes you better in every way possible; this melody celebrates that moment and thanks that person for making you feel ‘whole’ and alive. “July 25th”, a stirring and compelling orchestral instrumental, and a key date in Emeli’s relationship with her current partner, is a brilliant piano led classical piece; while this melody segues into “Oxygen”. A romantic love song through and through, “Oxygen” speaks about not being able to breathe or live without this person. With this song also being a challenge for all of us to actually ‘go deep’ and not only do small talk or ‘surface’ talk with the important people in our lives; Emeli reminds us that in order for us to feel happy and content, we must be really honest and vulnerable with people in our lives, and we must be able to show our entire selves to some people… otherwise we won’t actually have a happy and fulfilling life and existence. “Summer”, a jazzy R&B/pop infused melody, speaks about Emeli feeling happy and fulfilled and content in the presence of her partner (even when they fight and even when everything else in her life is out of whack!); while “My Pleasure” is a tropical, Caribbean-esque melody about the joys of intimacy with another person who you treasure and another person you value the most in every single way.

“There Isn’t Much”, probably the highlight of the album, recounts Emeli’s raw and unending love for her partner, outlining that ‘…no matter who I love, and no matter who I touch, I’m afraid there isn’t much without you, see, look at all my stuff, you would think I had enough, but I swear there isn’t much, without you…’, while Emeli also in this song places her partner on a pedestal, relaying that they are the most important person in Emeli’s life. “September 8th”, a 50 second interlude where Emeli once again sings about how in love with her partner she is, sets up the rest of the album where Emeli and her partner are in some state of perfect bliss; however this short but punchy melody reminds us that real love is possible with someone- and we all just need to know where to look. “Look In Your Eyes”, an extension lyrically and thematically of “September 8th”, is a 80’s themed disco melody about Emeli being secure and confident in her love with her partner- it’s also a song that would fit right at home with The Bee Gees; while “Ready To Love”, a radio-friendly pop melody, is Emeli at her vocal best- as she further reminds us just how wonderful and brilliant the feeling of love is, that ‘…you give me strength to be vulnerable, I want the whole world to know, I’m ready to love again…’. “Wait For Me”, an emotional and heartbreaking acoustic guitar led Latin flavoured melody, speaks about two people who love each other very deeply, but are separated by circumstance, war, work or even death. It’s an emotional song where Emeli describes the unbreakable bonds of a perfect love; while “Another One”, probably the most polarising and ‘controversial’ song on the album, speaks about the murder of George Floyd: This is the first time I’ve really sung about how I feel as a Black woman. When George Floyd was murdered, it was just…it’s another one. Sadly, I feel like the lives of people of color are valued so much less than everybody else’s, and that’s become normal. Another young man has been stabbed. Another person has been shot by the police. We’re becoming desensitized to the fact that these are human lives. I really wanted to try and sum up those emotions. I thought, ‘Well, I can cry about it and get angry, but actually, let me use music to construct something that might be more empowering.’ The first verse is written from more of a male perspective because I was thinking about police shootings. And then the second verse is written more from a female perspective because I was thinking about the fact that Black women are five times more likely to die in childbirth. I really wanted to give both perspectives to show that racism seeps through into everything, even the health profession.

After such an explosive and visceral melody, Emeli continues with the lyrical punches in quite possibly one of the most inspirational melodies of the year in “Yes You Can”. As Emeli reminds us that we each can rise above the hardships in our lives, and encourages us that ‘…yes, you will, yes, you can, find the strength in you deep within, even though it feels like quicksand, don’t lose faith you will rise again, yes, you will, yes, you can, I’m reaching out to you to take my hand, for you there’s a much bigger plan, yes, you will, yes, you can…’; we are also reminded that a single song can indeed lift our spirits and our emotions- “Yes You Can” isn’t necessarily just for the Black community; it’s for anyone that’s felt downtrodden. A lot of people are experiencing low self-esteem or depression and this song is for them. After the words came out, I realized we needed to slap people in the face with the production. Because when you’re in a depression, you need an energy just as strong as the darkness to pull you out. That’s why we went super epic and tried to keep surprising people. Pop melody “Brighter Days” is a cheesy, unashamedly poppy melody about feeling happy and knowing that you’re out of the ‘tunnel’ (be it literal or proverbial!), and knowing that nothing really can get your down, because you have survived the worst of the worst- it’s a song that is meant to be sung and boldly declared post-COVID-19 and post-the pandemic; while the penultimate track on Let’s Say For Instance is “Superhuman”. With this pop melody relaying that being human and being alive is a wonderful and dare I say a superhuman thing; Emeli emotionally and beautifully conveys the complexities and the intricacies of being human, and reminds us that we all should be grateful and thankful for being alive. Emeli then closes out the album with the piano ballad “World Go Round”, reminding us all about the importance of true love from the people we deem to be important to us.

Growing up, racism was always around, but just as a threat; not being able to really get into conflict or fight because you know where it’s going to go. What else can you say once someone has said something racist to you? Even if you have a better argument, there’s not really much you can reply to that. My mum’s parents were Catholic and my dad’s parents were obviously very Christian. My friends were Bahá’ís when I was growing up, and they would talk about investigating as many religions as possible to really get a sense of what you actually believe in. Then Naughty Boy was Muslim, and we’d discuss things a lot. I don’t even know what I’d call myself now, but I definitely believe in God. Especially when I make music; it’s always felt like something more than just me is going on there. You can feel it when you hear a gospel choir singing, or when you’re listening to Bach, there’s this purity in music that was made for God.

Success is wonderful, but it comes with a lot of strings. You have to promote. You have to be giving out. I came into this industry at 24, I’m 35 now. I want to feel like I’m getting better, but to do that, you have to practise. I had such a distinctive onstage look, people would really only recognise me when I looked like that. I felt like I could choose whether or not to be famous. I never really felt like a celebrity. I don’t really know that many famous people. I felt like my music was more known than I was.

A stirring, moving, powerful, confident, compelling, and inspiring album to remember, Emeli Sandé still may not be the name on everyone’s lips in the coming months and years. However, her new album is a release that we all should listen to, no matter if Emeli becomes popular or not. An album that is extremely honest and special to her, Let’s Say For Instance is an album that we all can be comforted and inspired by. God can use anyone in order to inspire us and to comfort us. Indeed, He has used Emeli. So, let’s sit back and bask in the wonder of this powerful R&B/gospel album. With no preconceived ideas. Well done, Emeli; I can’t wait to hear what’s in store for you next!

I definitely take the responsibility pretty seriously because music for me, it’s always quite a spiritual process. I always feel something beyond me is happening, especially when I hear what the songs mean to other people. So I don’t take that for granted. And I don’t necessarily see what I do is as just entertainment, I really want to speak and messages that can hopefully influence people’s lives in a positive way. It does get a little bit daunting, because sometimes you just don’t know what to say. The same as everybody else, we’re being engulfed with so much information and so many points of views, and to have the bravery to speak your truth can be quite daunting. On social media, everything’s so fast and we sometimes get confused that we all need to be moving that fast as well. The biggest lesson I’ve taken is you do know what to say, but you just need to stop and think and really connect with what’s beneath all of this frenzy. I enjoy having a voice, I enjoy having a platform and I try to use it the best way I can. Now I’m just trying to tell myself when you have something to say make sure you know what it is and make sure you really thought about it because it’s very easy to just rush into something and not have the full picture.

4 songs to listen to: There Isn’t Much, Ready To Love, Yes You Can, Brighter Days

Score: 4.5/5

RIYL: Alicia Keys, Jess Glynne, Ed Sheeran, Ellie Goulding, OneRepublic, Boyz II Men, Janet Jackson

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