Music

Seal: System

And what is the end result? A fairly typical Seal album, just one that makes you dance a little more!


Seal

System

Label: Warner Brothers
US Release Date: 2007-11-13
UK Release Date: 2007-11-12
Amazon
iTunes

Over the course of a career that’s spanned 15 years and some change, Seal has crafted an image as an ethereal balladeer. His rough-hewn soulful croon has contrasted nicely with his music over the years. A music which has mostly comprised tasteful mid-tempo pop and beautifully orchestrated moodier cuts that hint at new age and dream-pop textures. After four increasingly lush Trevor Horn-produced albums, you’ve gotta figure that it was time for Seal to try something a little different. So Seal’s new record, System, is a departure if you’re familiar only with Seal’s more recent or more popular music.

If you’re a fan of his earliest work, including the hit single “Crazy” and his guest turn on Adamski’s “Killer”, then this album will be a refreshing step back in time. It’s an album powered by driving, electronic beats the likes of which he hasn’t explored heavily since his classic 1991 debut. For the first time ever, the man behind the boards is not former Yes-man Horn. Stuart Price, who is best known for helping Madonna out on “Confessions on a Dance Floor”, helms the production of this album. Price updates Seal’s sound to a degree, but the sonic changes doesn’t take away from Seal’s warm vocals and intelligent lyrics. And what is the end result? A fairly typical Seal album, just one that makes you dance a little more!

If you (like me) have a terrible allergy to most current dance music, then have no fear. Although the beats are tough and contemporary, System can boast of a couple of things that the average 21st century collection of club anthems would lack. That is a top notch vocalist and lyrics (as opposed to chants…wait, we can throw melody in there too). It’s thinking-person’s dance music, with mental and emotional resonance as opposed to the thump-thump-release that makes most contemporary dance completely useless once you step off the dance floor.

If I can bring Madonna up again in this review (and I can’t promise I won’t do it again), this album sounds like a much more successful fusion of electric and acoustic musical textures that Madge has been exploring for the past decade or so. The songs would work either way. It would be very easy to replace the pulsing synthesizers of several songs with acoustic guitars (or even loud rock guitars in a couple of cases, if Seal so desired).

Of course, Seal has become much more known over the past couple of years for his non-musical endeavors, which include marrying and impregnating supermodel extraordinaire Heidi Klum. One thing that might interest rubbernecks is the fact that Heidi actually sings on this album. No, seriously, Heidi sings on this album. And the song’s not bad. Besides, if you’re gonna make a song called “Wedding Song”, wouldn’t it make sense to have the bride onboard for the proceedings? Truthfully, Heidi doesn’t embarrass herself as a vocalist, although she can’t hold a candle to her hubby. It’s a touching duet, and Heidi is at least as good a vocalist as fellow model/singer Naomi Campbell.

There’s plenty more ear candy to be found on System. The ethereal vibe of most of Seal’s lyrics gives this album an atmospheric, almost trance-like feel that‘s reminiscent of some of the best early ‘80s dance music. The propulsive “The Right Life” is a prime example of this sound, with a feel very similar to Madonna‘s “Get Together“ (by far the best song on the mediocre Confessions). “Loaded“ is another winner, with an ‘80s style synthesizer breakdown that could have come off of an old Yaz record. “Dumb” is another monster entirely. It’s the strangest track on the album, with a mix of jangly acoustic guitar and hand-clappy percussion that suggests…well, I’m not sure what it’ll suggest to YOU, but it reminds ME of something from My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Just to mix things up so that fans of Seal’s more adult contemporary music don’t run away screaming, the album closes with the signature shimmering ballad “Rolling” and the dream-like “Immaculate“. These are the two songs that sound most like…well, not the old Seal, but the most widely known Seal.

Seal’s always been a little more edgy than your average adult contemporary superstar. So while a Josh Groban or Michael Buble fan (or even a James Blunt fan) might be taken aback by the slightly more electronic flavor of an album like System, most fans of Seal will accept this album as yet another strong entry in his eminently listenable catalog. Despite the album having a bit of a different texture than his past couple, it’s still atmospheric and soothing. Granted, if you were there from day one, then System will probably not come as a surprise to you at all.

7
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.

Books

90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.

Music

Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

‘The Avengers’ Offer a Lesson for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.

Music

Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.

Music

Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.

Books

First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?

Reviews

HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.

Music

Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Music

How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.

Music

Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.