Promise is the second studio album by English band Sade, released in the United Kingdom on 4 November 1985 by Epic Records and in the United States on 15 November 1985 by Portrait Records. Recording for the album began in February and lasted until August 1985. The band co-produced the album with the same team of producers they worked with on their debut album, Diamond Life, including Robin Millar, Mike Pela and Ben Rogan. The album's title comes from a letter from Sade Adu's father where he refers to the "promise of hope" to recover from cancer.

Studio album by
Released4 November 1985 (1985-11-04)
RecordedFebruary–August 1985
Sade chronology
Diamond Life
Stronger Than Pride
Singles from Promise
  1. "The Sweetest Taboo"
    Released: October 1985
  2. "Is It a Crime?"
    Released: December 1985
  3. "Never as Good as the First Time"
    Released: March 1986

The album was a commercial success, peaking at number one on both the UK Albums Chart and the US Billboard 200, becoming the band's first album to top both charts. It also reached number one in Finland, the Netherlands and Switzerland, and the top five in numerous countries, including Canada, Germany and New Zealand. The album spawned three singles, including "The Sweetest Taboo", which became a success worldwide.



After studying fashion design, and later modeling briefly, Adu sang backup with British band Pride. During this time she formed a writing partnership with Pride's guitarist and saxophonist, Stuart Matthewman; together, backed by Pride's rhythm section, they began doing their own sets at Pride gigs.[2] In 1983, Adu and Matthewman split from Pride along with keyboardist Andrew Hale, bassist Paul Denman, and drummer Paul Cooke and formed Sade; later that year they got a record deal.[2] Afterwards, Sade released their debut album, Diamond Life, in 1984, which became a success in the United Kingdom and later became a success in the United States following the release of its single "Smooth Operator".[2] Diamond Life has sold over six million copies worldwide, becoming one of the top-selling debut album of the 1980s and the best-selling debut ever by a British female vocalist.[2]



Between February and August 1985, Sade enlisted the same team of producers they worked with on Diamond Life. The band co-produced Promise with Robin Millar, Mike Pela, and Ben Rogan, the latter of which played a less central role in the production.[3] Some of the album's sessions took place during a two-week sojourn in Provence, utilising an SSL E-series console housed at the barn-shaped, concrete-built Studio Miraval. However, the majority of the album was recorded at Power Plant Studios in London, where the project commenced in February 1985 and concluded seven months later, with the mix being done in the Gallery (Studio Three) located on the top floor, with its 44-channel Harrison MR3.[3] Studio One is where the production team initially listened to several of the songs in demo form, although Pela was at the Royal Albert Hall when he first heard one of the new tracks.[3] Like their debut album, Promise was recorded live, though it featured the use of technology, sampling drums by way of an AMS with a lock-in feature.[3]

The album's lead single was created at Power Plant's Studio One, where a 30 × 25 × 18-foot live area was complemented by a 36-channel Harrison Series 24 console, UREI 813B main monitors and a 24-track Studer A820 recorder running Ampex tape at 30ips.[3] Pela explained the process saying, "We had UREI monitors in all of the rooms so that there was some continuity, and we also had Acoustic Research AR18Ss, which we discovered at that studio and which I've still got a pair of. They were like hi-fi speakers, they only cost about 80 quid, and once we'd started using them the company stopped making them. They were really nice and natural-sounding, not designed to carry super-low heavy frequencies, but absolutely fine."[3]

Release and promotion


The album spawned three singles—"Is It a Crime?", "Never as Good as the First Time" and "The Sweetest Taboo", the latter of which was released as the album's lead single and spent six months on the US Billboard Hot 100.[4] "The Sweetest Taboo" peaked at number five on the US Billboard Hot 100, number one on the US Adult Contemporary chart and number three on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.[5] The second single "Never as Good as the First Time" was released in 1986, reaching number six on the Adult Contemporary chart, number 18 on the Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales chart, number eight on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and number 20 on the US Billboard Hot 100.[5]

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [6]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music     [7]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [8]
The Village VoiceB[9]

In a contemporary review for Rolling Stone, Anthony DeCurtis felt that "the careful elegance of the production and instrumental settings seems little more than a strategy to conceal the limitations of Sade's vocal range and skills as a song stylist".[10] The Village Voice's Robert Christgau commented, "Even when it's this sumptuous, there's a problem with aural wallpaper—once you start paying attention to it, it's not wallpaper anymore, it's pictures on the wall. And while as a wallpaper these pictures may be something, they can't compete with the ones you've hung up special."[9] Spin said, "Sade is a torch singer without the torch. Her voice has no blood, no guts, and no soul."[11]

Ron Wynn of AllMusic was more positive in his retrospective review, stating that the album was superior to the band's debut and describing Sade as the "personification of cool, laid-back singing", despite "seldom extending or embellishing lyrics, registering emotion, or projecting her voice."[6] In a retrospective review for Pitchfork, Naima Cochrane called Promise "lush and unhurried" and "the ideal second album, firmly establishing the Sade template without retreading the same material of the band's debut." Cochrane felt that "You can wrap yourself up in the music and Adu's soft-touch tone, recall or lament life and love through the lyrics, or fully immerse yourself with both."[1]

Commercial performance


Promise became the band's first album to reach number one on the US Billboard 200, spending two weeks at the top position.[12] By September 1988, Promise had sold one million copies in the United States,[13] and on 23 July 1997, it was certified quadruple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipments in excess of four million copies.[14] When Sade's sixth studio album, Soldier of Love, topped the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart in 2010, the group set the record for the longest gap between number-one albums on the chart (Promise and Soldier of Love were separated by 23 years, 10 months and 2 weeks).[15]

Track listing


All lyrics are written by Sade Adu, except "Punch Drunk"

1."Is It a Crime?"
Robin Millar6:20
2."The Sweetest Taboo"Millar4:37
3."War of the Hearts"
  • Adu
  • Matthewman
4."You're Not the Man"
  • Adu
  • Matthewman
  • Adu
  • Matthewman
6."Mr Wrong"
7."Punch Drunk"HaleMillar5:25
8."Never as Good as the First Time"
  • Adu
  • Matthewman
  • Adu
  • Matthewman
10."Tar Baby"
  • Adu
  • Matthewman
  • Adu
  • Hale
  • Denman
  • Rogan
  • Sade
Total length:54:10


  • "You're Not the Man" and "Punch Drunk" are not included on the LP version of the album.



Credits adapted from the liner notes of Promise.[16]



Additional musicians

  • Dave Early – drums, percussion
  • Martin Ditcham – percussion
  • Terry Bailey – trumpet
  • Pete Beachill – trombone
  • Jake Jacas – vocals (tracks 8, 11)
  • Carlos Bonell – guitar (track 9)
  • Nick Ingman – string arrangements (tracks 9, 10)


  • Robin Millar – production (tracks 1–10)
  • Ben Rogan – production (tracks 4, 8, 11)
  • Sade – production (tracks 4, 8, 11)
  • Mike Pela – production (track 8); mixing (track 11); production engineering (all tracks)


  • Toshi Yajima – photography
  • Graham Smith – sleeve design



Certifications and sales

Certifications and sales for Promise
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[50] Platinum 70,000^
Belgium (BEA)[51] Platinum 75,000[51]
Canada (Music Canada)[52] 2× Platinum 200,000^
Finland (Musiikkituottajat)[53] Platinum 58,935[53]
France (SNEP)[54] 2× Platinum 600,000*
Germany (BVMI)[56] Platinum 570,000[55]
Japan 200,000[55]
New Zealand (RMNZ)[57] Platinum 15,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[58] 2× Platinum 600,000^
United States (RIAA)[14] 4× Platinum 4,500,000[59]
Worldwide 9,300,000[59]

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

Release history

Format Label Date Ref.
LP Epic 1985 [60]
CD Universal Music
Cassette Portrait
CD Sony Music Distribution 1990
BMG / Sony Music Entertainment 2000
LP Epic

See also



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  2. ^ a b c d "Sade Biography". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 4 April 2015. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Buskin, Richard (November 2004). "CLASSIC TRACKS: Sade 'The Sweetest Taboo'". Sound on Sound. Retrieved 9 July 2019.
  4. ^ "MTV Music". MTV . Archived from the original on 18 November 2013.
  5. ^ a b "Album Search for "promise"". AllMusic.
  6. ^ a b Wynn, Ron. "Promise – Sade". AllMusic. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  7. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). "Sade". The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-85712-595-8.
  8. ^ Sarig, Roni (2004). "Sade". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). New York: Simon & Schuster. pp. 712–13. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  9. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (29 April 1986). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  10. ^ DeCurtis, Anthony (30 January 1986). "Sade: Promise". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 30 June 2009. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  11. ^ Jessica Berens (January 1986). "Spins". Spin. No. 9. p. 32.
  12. ^ "Sade's 'Soldier' Sizzles at No. 1 on Billboard 200". Billboard.
  13. ^ "Sade – tribunedigital-chicagotribune". Archived from the original on 11 July 2015.
  14. ^ a b "American album certifications – Sade – Promise". Recording Industry Association of America. 23 July 1997.
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  16. ^ Promise (liner notes). Sade. Epic Records. 1985. CDEPC 86318.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  17. ^ "Las canciones más populares en Latinoamérica". La Opinión (Los Angeles) (in Spanish). 14 April 1986. p. 20. Retrieved 19 October 2023.
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  53. ^ a b "Sade" (in Finnish). Musiikkituottajat – IFPI Finland. Retrieved 7 February 2009.
  54. ^ "French album certifications – Sade – Promise" (in French). InfoDisc. Select SADE and click OK. 
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