Since my husband had retuned the television, importing channels that no person free from troubling neurosis could possibly want to watch, such as one devoted to the sale of steam-cleaning machines, I stumbled over Emeli Sandé singing her song ‘Next to Me’, which was No. 2 in the BBC singles charts last week, and may be No. 1 by now.
It is poetic in a traditional sense, employing metre, rhyme and romantic images. ‘I wanna hold your hand by the sea;/ Wanna feel you next to me./ I wanna see the sunrise in your eyes;/ Wanna keep you by my side.’ The orthographic convention wanna could be replaced by want to, but does suggest the words’ realisation in performance. The rhyme eyes and side falls within the scope permissible in rap.
This is not Keats, but it is often the case that plain lyrics best lend themselves to song. Miss Sandé is made in a traditional bohemian mould. She employs her second name professionally, since her baptismal Adele had been claimed by quite a different singer. Her father is from Zambia, her mother from England and she was raised in Aberdeenshire, dropping out of a medical course at Glasgow University. She leans to the intellectual side of the R&B genre of popular music, having worked with Tinie Tempah and Professor Green.
Last year Emeli Sandé sang on Professor Green’s track ‘Read All About It’ on his album At Your Inconvenience. The song is about his father’s suicide in 2008, seven years after he last spoke to him, on his 18th birthday. Autobiographical misery lit is one weapon of the rap armoury: ‘Last thing I said to you was I hated you./