1991, Music

Seal (1991)

I know one Seal song. (I’m too young for “Crazy.”) Seal was not big in North America and is known here to my generation for “Kiss From a Rose” and, for younger people, as being Heidi Klum’s ex-husband. So I didn’t know what to expect.

I’m impressed by the songwriting. It’s self-assured and, more importantly for what I thought this music was, I hear a distinct authorial voice in the lyrics. (Not something you often get in “R&B” or whatever we’re calling this.) I’m not saying I love Seal’s lyrics, but I appreciate that he’s actually writing lyrics that he wants us to listen to (not just his voice). And the songs are catchy enough. (I mean, a few of them were massive hits in the UK.)

The music is relatively diverse, it’s diverse enough nobody can seem to agree on what genre this is. That’s a good thing in my book. There is music that I guess might have succeeded in dance clubs. There are ballads. The instruments used on each track are rarely the same. It’s really hard to categorize. “Soul” doesn’t really feel appropriate, nor does “R&B,” because Seal is very much operating in a different musical tradition (a very British one). There are times it could almost pass for early trip hop.

The production is dated, as the production for virtually all 1991 albums on the dance-R&B spectrum inevitably is. But it’s not as dated as it could be. There are plenty of organic instruments – including an awful lot of acoustic guitar for 1991 R&B – there are plenty of electronic instruments that at least sound more ’90s than ’80s and, of course, Seal’s voice is up front in the mix so it’s easy to ignore some of the more dated touches.

Honestly, I’m really genuinely surprised at how much I didn’t hate this. It’s surprisingly diverse and it’s a pretty decent set of songs.


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