UNFORGETTABLE: “The Sweetest Tabbo” by Sade

sade the sweetest taboo

Scratched and played a million times, bought from a second-hand vinyl record store in Monastiraki at the beginning of the 90s (even though it was released in 1985), and with a review of the album (that had been torn from the magazine “Pop&Rock”) tucked carefully inside, indicating how much this album meant to its previous owner. The record was none other than “Promise”, the second album released by Sade (otherwise known as Helen Folassade Adu).

I put the record on and the needle gets stuck on “Τhe Sweetest Taboo”, repeating the track over and over again. Interpreting this as a sign (or maybe it was just impossible for me to resist the temptation of technology), I searched for the song on youtube. I wonder what temor means as I watch Sade write the word on the window in her video clip. After researching it online, I found out that it’s the Spanish word for fear. Her choice of language makes me think about her destructive relationship with the Spanish director, Carlos Pliego.

How much fear can be hidden within a sweet taboo and how much of a taboo could love have been for Sade? At first, one thinks that “The Sweetest Taboo” refers to unexpressed love. However, given the fact that Sade comes from a highly Islamic country (Nigeria) could this song perhaps be her way of talking about…an orgasm? “There’s a quiet storm and it never felt this hot before”. I blink. “Quiet storm” is a subgenre of R&B, a term which became popular during the mid-70s from a Washington radio station (Whur-Fm) which featured mainly African-American music, low tempo R&B and soulful jazz. How many secret messages are hidden within her lyrics? I remove the record from the record player. Sade’s music is not made to be heard on MP3. It is too ethereal, just like her voice. It’s old-school and classic. In an interview she had once noted, “I don’t think we were ever ‘in'”, even though one can say that her contribution to modern soul music is as important as Marvin Gaye’s, Nina Simone’s and Billie Holiday’s. “I think we’ve been out of date from the start”. The contradiction to this statement is that she has sold over 50 million copies- of which “The Sweetest Taboo” remains as one of her most popular songs.


#Words by Dimitris Stavrogiannis