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Seal IV is a state-of-the-art upper-demo album, to be sure, but it’s also a powerful affirmation of humanity and spiritual connection in a dark time.
ON RECORDS: SEAL
ENDS THE WAITING
Pop-Soul Innovator's Latest Is an Emotional Gem
It’s been five years since Seal’s last work, 1998’s Human Being, and that’s a long time to wait. Even Seal seems to acknowledge this—two songs on his latest album, Seal IV (Warner Bros.), have "Wait" in the title.

But some things are worth waiting for.

Possessing one of the most gorgeous and distinctive voices in contemporary music, with a sweet, gritty soulfulness that evokes Sam Cooke and Otis Redding and a husky vulnerability suggestive of Peter Gabriel, the British singer-songwriter born Sealhenry Samuel has returned just when we needed him most.

Produced, as were the artist’s previous releases, by Trevor Horn, Seal IV is a state-of-the-art upper-demo album, to be sure—its sleek grooves, insinuating melodies and inventive arrangements make it equally suitable for the car, gym, club and bedroom—but it’s also a powerful affirmation of humanity and spiritual connection in a dark time.

These 12 new songs repeatedly emphasize the power of love and community. The tone is set by the Curtis Mayfield-esque symphonic soul of opener "Get It Together" (which bookends the disc, along with its short reprise), an expansive plea for unity.

"Waiting for You," the album’s kinetic lead single, is a breathless expression of yearning and desire atop a spacious, percolating beat, with hooks threaded through each ambitious section. "Feels like the world’s at stake," he wails in a thrilling falsetto during the chorus, and there’s no doubting he means it.

The ballad "Don’t Make Me Wait" is a stunning update of the classic, torchy soul-pop that so influenced Seal’s musical sensibility, rising to its emotional crescendo on an exquisite string arrangement. If his performance on this track doesn’t give you chills, consult a physician. It’s arguably the loveliest song he’s recorded since the 1996 smash "Kiss From a Rose."

On the urgent, percolating "Let Me Roll," Seal disdains the materialism of much modern pop, declaring, "Got no Escalade to talk about/Just heart and soul." A similar sentiment guides the celestial, reggae-inflected "Where There’s Gold": "When there’s nothing left to buy/It’s only love that gets you high."

The intimate "Loneliest Star" and searching, disillusioned "Tinsel Town" meditate on the emptiness of celebrity without communion.

The driving "My Vision," the spare, incandescent "Love’s Divine," the swooning "Touch" and "Heavenly… (Good Feeling)" all underscore Seal’s primary message: that love can make earth into heaven. Given the anguish and despair bombarding us each day, it couldn’t be timelier.

With its thematic uplift and musical depth and consistency, Seal IV has all the earmarks of a "must-have" album. Adult listeners—far more resistant to the siren calls of video games and unauthorized downloading than younger consumers—are increasingly vital to the industry’s bottom line. And whenever anyone bothers to ask, they clamor for music of substance.

Many of these listeners have been fans of Seal’s since his earliest hits. The return of this dynamic, versatile talent is just what they’ve been waiting for.

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