Thursday, 23 September 2010

Seal - Commitment

Seal's back! And whether you call this album by its proper name, Commitment, or by its nickname, Seal 6, you're in for a treat as his distinctive voice carries you away to distant lands - or just distant times. Sure, it's a bit 90s in places, but Seal was one of the high points of the decade that originality forgot. I'm still sporting the hairstyle I adopted in 1996, so I shouldn't really complain too much.

At the time of writing, there's still a good few days left until the US release date of September 28th, but the rest of the world's already got Commitment to wrap their listening gear around. I've always thought Seal's best suited to solo listening. And with the energetic opening that I'm about to discuss in the High Points section below, you might want to make sure there are no distractions around so you can properly enjoy one of our most recognisable and effortless vocal talents.

High Points

The aforementioned opening to the album, If I'm Any Closer, is a great way to get started. Rapid piano and cycling strings, Seal's voice singing something along the lines of "di di d-d-di di" etc, cymbal crashes and then break to a subtle drum beat and finger clicks before the opening line proper, "I'm a dreamer who comes tumbling out of the sky..." and you're into rapid-fire lyrics that tell a story - well what did you expect? It's like a gateway, welcoming you into Seal's world, and not entirely unlike a musical hug that says "hey, I'm back".

I often pick my highs early in the albums that I review, and I think it's because early on I'm still not into the groove and I'm easier to surprise or impress. This is no exception - I'm listing track two, Weight Of My Mistakes, for its uplifting intro. The song itself is quite upbeat and nothing massively remarkable - although still enjoyable - but the opening is epic and sounds like the crescendo of Kiss From A Rose, which is a nice touch, even if unintended.

The Verdict

Seal, you're something of an enigma. That's not a 90s music pun, by the way. It's true. The music on this album is unmistakably Seal - it wouldn't sound out of place alongside anything else I've heard from him, even things like A Change Is Gonna Come. And yet its originality is unchallenged. The closest I can think of to that Seal 'sound' anywhere else is some of Sting's stuff. And even that doesn't really compare directly.

So we're two decades in and, allowing a little shift in either direction to account for musical tastes, nothing's really changed. And that's great. I wouldn't want Seal any other way. He's a true star, shining uniquely in a dark sky of copycat vocalists autotuned to within an inch of their life. Commitment is a fitting title for this album - I don't particularly like just calling it 6 - and perhaps the true story is not that Seal's music has somehow dodged the ageing process (just as he sometimes seems to have done), but perhaps it exists outside of that process entirely. Maybe this really is timeless music.

Final Score: 90%


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