The statuesque presence. The aloof, icy demeanor. It's Sade. The Nigerian-born pop singer acknowledges the image is deliberate. But she cautions against taking it too seriously.
"I don't think I'm so sultry and mysterious," says Sade (pronounced Sha-DAY) in a taped interview provided by her record company. "It's just that I don't want people to have too much of me."
That's an understatement. Four years passed between Sade's third album, "Stronger Than Pride," and last fall's "Love Deluxe." Musically, not much has changed; it's still her sophisticated jazz-pop-soul hybrid.
But it was a tumultuous time out of the public eye for the 33-year-old singer. She moved to Madrid, Spain, for a time, marrying documentary filmmaker Carlos Scola in 1989 and separating from him a year later. Returning to London, she purchased and remodeled a home, adding a basement recording studio.
That's plenty to occupy anyone's time off, but Sade also had to fight a battery of tabloid-generated rumors that said she was in a mental hospital after an emotional breakdown and suffered from a variety of drug abuses.
Sade -- who is accustomed to paparazzi literally falling out of the trees near her home -- denies every report.
"They must have thought there was something seriously wrong with me because I don't want to be on TV every week," she told Pulse! magazine. "Why didn't I want to be there? Why didn't I want to be at the opening of an Evian bottle? Where was I? There must be something seriously wrong with me. I must be a heroin addict or completely crazy."
The daughter of Nigerian and British parents, Sade was 4 when they split and her mother moved the future singer and her brother back to England. Sade first gathered a following as part of a large ensemble called Pride. But it was Sade alone who was signed to a record deal, emerging in 1984 with the hits "Smooth Operator" and "Your Love Is King." She won a Grammy for Best New Artist and sold 20 million copies worldwide of her first three albums.
But a 1988 world tour left her drained and hastened her decision to take some time off. "We had forgotten what life was all about, I think," she says. "The best part of what we do is making records. If you don't have any time away from the music business . . . there's nothing that really inspires you to make a record."