Saturday, September 18, 2010

Seal's secret

Seal has been popping albums out with incredible regularity. He returns with his fourth in as many years. That includes his excellent "Hits" collection from 2009.

The man with the soulful, rough hewn voice - who also happens to be married to supermodel and "Project Runway" host Heidi Klum - recently revealed the first single from his forthcoming longplayer.

"Secret" is the lead track from "Commitment", Seal's seventh studio album. For some reason, he considers it his sixth. Apparently, his previous elpee, the drippy covers album, "Soul", doesn't count. Whatever the correct tally, "Commitment" is the latest in a career that stretches back twenty years! Where did all that time go?

The verse kinda reminds me of "You're Beautiful" by James Blunt. This is not necessarily a good thing. Old war horse and MOR knob twiddler, David Foster, makes a return appearance in the producer's seat for "Commitment". Seal and Mr. Foster developed a close, creative relationship during the recording of "Soul" which prompted Seal to reprise David's role for the follow up.

David Foster, for those that don't know, has produced everyone from Celine Dion to Chicago, Cher, Gloria Estefan, Olivia Newton-John and more. He is the undisputed king of the adult contemporary ballad.

While "Secret" is a bit schmaltzy, its b-side, "If I Could Ever Make You Love Me", shows a few glimmers of Seal's epic ballads from the past like "Violet". However, it doesn't come close to the dizzy heights scaled by towering classics like "Prayer For The Dying" or "Kiss From A Rose". It doesn't even hold a candle to recent favorite "Love's Divine" which was criminally overlooked by the singles charts on both sides of the Atlantic with the exception of Germany where it peaked at #4.

As much as I like Seal, I prefer him in the guise of otherworldly, social troubadour to the mushy, gushing husband enveloped in marital bliss. I think he's a better songwriter when he incorporates more lyrical bite into his songs.


  1. Hi Vinny, nothing to do with Seal but just wanted to say how much I'm enjoying your blog: keep up the good work!


    Jer aka Afront

  2. @Afront - Thank you so much! I really appreciate that. I enjoy writing the blog. It's very gratifying to hear that people like the work I put into it. Music is my life!

  3. Absolutely agree with Afront. I check your blog daily and love reading what you have to say and even more, checking out all the music you recommend. I love music and I listen to it constantly. Cant imagine a world without it and I like to hear new stuff and not just hide away and listen to old favourites - although thats fun sometimes too :) So, thanks again for writing your blog and entertaining and informing us :)



  4. @OberonOZ - Thank you, too! Well, it's a lovefest today. All these wonderful compliments. I'm blushing.

  5. Back on topic now. There's only so much logrolling one can take on a brisk Sunday morning. Even if our host is a prince among men. Possibly a king, judging from that hilarious new avatar, by the way!

    You struck a real serious chord on the analysis of when you like Seal versus when he fails for you. First of all, I'm shocked that David Foster is still alive, but only the good die young, right? If I had a nose full of nickels for every artist he compromised up the charts, I'd be a wealthy man. Personally, I'm still steamed at what he did for The Tubes, but I'm sure he helped their bank accounts.

    But I concur with your take on "silly love songs." Lyrics generally carry less weight with me than melody or a great hook, but when lyrically trite numbers otherwise have all that I require from a pop song, even in spades, I still devalue the end result. A simple "I love you" doesn't pull much weight with me, and I'm inclined to look elsewhere for my musical stimulation.

    If you've got to have a love song, at least make it one at an adult level. Articulate [hopefully with wit and a perceptive lyric] on why it is you're over the moon about a certain someone and it goes a way further with pushing my pleasure buttons, and elevating the song to something which I can begin to call greatness.

  6. I heard this on the radio the other day and nearly fell asleep in my car. I suppose AC is probably a good direction for Seal to go commercially, but this is so dreary.

  7. I used to think it had to happen to everybody that with age came schmaltz, but I know now that is not true. We all know Madonna is no ripe chicken, but I would say even recent things like the new OMD, Tracey Thorn, Kim Wilde, and recent Pet Shop Boys, A-ha, David Sylvian, and Depeche Mode also prove that just because you get older, you can make music on your own terms.

    That being said, people like Seal, Annie Lennox, and kd lang--singers who I respected for being edgy as well as being great singers--seem to have all lost a bit of their dangerous qualities with age. Look at someone like Siouxsie Sioux, and I think it's easy to agree. It's especially sad in Seal's case, as he just made a rather unsuccessful album with the great Stuart Price only a few years ago, and now seems to be chasing ballad-y hits. What happened to the guy that wrote "Deep Water" and "Wild"?

  8. @Michael - A cup of coffee should do the trick. Don't Seal and drive.

  9. @countpopula - Very well said! I agree with you. It's a shame when an act goes all snoozy.

  10. Countpopula -

    Bravo. One factor that I can spot in your AC Trio [Seal, Lennox, Lang] is that they're all "singer's singers" who have the ability to enrapt their audience with sheer technique. I've always found that factor to be a crutch for lazy artists. Hey, when it working, I can't knock it! But the odds are always that an artist will eventually dry up and realize that they don't have to work quite so hard and still grab a nice handful of filthy lucre. Usually a larger handful, to boot.

    I count myself as a fan of Annie Lennox from her early days in The Tourists [whom I still hold a brighter torch for after all these years] but as of "Medusa" she hit that AC brick wall - hard! I got a copy of that album free with Maxell Max Points [dating myself here] and still got rid of it. What she did to songs I treasured was a crime in my eyes. I love keyboards but my blood runs cold when I hear that damn soporific DX7 electric piano + reverb patch! That "lullabye sound" is my least favorite pop cliche!! She was washed up. I had no reason for years to ever assume it would happen to her, but nothing she's done since then has changed my mind. I've been given later albums by others for a listen after they bailed on them and I got rid of those too. Very few artists on my precious rack space get a free ride with their chaff. [Bowie comes to mind…]

    k.d. lang? Possibly the finest singer technically that I've ever seen. I remember a Torch & Twang show in Kissimmee, FL. That was one show where she literally could have sing the phone book to no complaints. Half the audience were Porter Waggoner/Dolly Parton clones and the rest were lesbians. But with vocal powers like that the easy option is always to suck up to Diane Warren and take the easy money.

    When all is said and done I'm left treasuring the likes of Billy MacKenzie. He was in a peerless league as a vocalist, and except for "Wild & Lonely," he always gave evidence of pushing an artistic envelope. When he did ballads [the Winter Academy material] at least they were damned good ballads, and he had other threads in edgier styles being developed simultaneously [the Outerpol material]. That it only reached public ears after his untimely death was a tragedy, but you can't say he gave up on his art. The work right up to the end was still trying - and succeeding.

  11. Seal is underrated. But no wonder considering his recent output. A shame considering his early work with Adamski on «Killer» and the other stuff you mention. I was actually thinking about Seal the other day, when I was listening to the upcoming Antony & the Johnsons album «Swanlights» (as I'm reviewing it) and was thinking that Hegarty's voice really reminded me of Seal's. Now there you have one artist doing his own thing (whether you like A&TJ or not) and another one who has compromised his divine voice completely. Seal should file for divorce and get back to recording decent music! ASAP!

  12. Wow...not one mention of Trevor Horn?!?!

    I absolutely love Seal as an artist and he seems like a tremendous individual as well. However, let's not forget the Trevor Horn served up this man's career on a silver platter.

    I think he's a better overall artist when he works with (exec) producers who play to his strengths. I mean, that's a super obvious statement lol Duh! But I think everyone gets the point. Trevor Horn has a knack of straddling that art v. commerce line and knows where to insert the cheese without it being so obvious.

    Perhaps that's the "edge" everybody keeps dancing around in their responses. Seal is marvelous, but he needs the right people around him at all time. Hit records are never a coincidence!

  13. @The Music Gourmandizer - No mention of Trevor Horn simply because Seal has produced some fantastic songs without him. He certainly cut his teeth with Trevor in the producer's seat, but he certainly can't keep going back to that well. Can you imagine it now? We'd be bitching about Seal relying too heavily on him!

    Also, Trevor had his most amazing moments from Dollar through Seal. Then it all got a bit stale. Have you hear "Can't Fight The Moonlight" by LeAnn Rimes? Awful.

  14. True...but we're all bitching anyways :0( I rather bitch because he relies too heavily on an individual such as Horn than this crap he's about to release.

    "Can't Fight The Moonlight" was a MASSIVE song...god awful yes from multiple standpoints lol, but it definitely got the job done.

    You know what I'd love to hear?!?! A collab between Seal and Stuart Matthewman!!!