Music Friday: Sade Sings About a Jewel Box Life, Diamond Nights and Ruby Lights in Her 1984 Hit, ‘Smooth Operator’

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you spectacular songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the lyrics or title. Today, we feature the sultry, silky, soaring vocals of Grammy-award-winning Helen Folasade Adu, better known as Sade. In the original version of her 1984 hit, “Smooth Operator,” she uses all three Music Friday qualifiers to tell the story of a cold-hearted playboy.

sade

In the long version of the song, Sade begins with a spoken recitation that includes the phrase, “Jewel box life, diamond nights and ruby lights.” Because the song ran about five minutes, many DJs chose to use the abbreviated version (about a minute shorter) that deletes the spoken lead-in and starts, instead, with the familiar instrumental saxophone solo and line, “Diamond life, lover boy.”

Later in the song, Sade uses a precious-metal metaphor: “A license to love, insurance to hold. Melts all your memories, change into gold.”

The fourth single off of Sade’s debut album, Diamond Life, “Smooth Operator” was the artist’s biggest U.S. hit, topping out at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart.

The 54-year-old Nigerian-born British singer-songwriter is the most successful solo female artist in British history, having sold more than 110 million albums worldwide. In 2012, she took the 30th spot on VH1’s list of the 100 Greatest Women in Music.

The end of this post includes a rare 1984 video of Sade performing “Smooth Operator” in front of a live audience (Yes, it’s the preferred long version). The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along.

“Smooth Operator”
Written by Sade Adu, Ray St. John. Performed by Sade.

He’s laughing with another girl
And playing with another heart.
Placing high stakes, making hearts ache.
He’s loved in seven languages.
Jewel box life, diamond nights and ruby lights, high in the sky.
Heaven help him, when he falls.

Diamond life, lover boy.
We move in space with minimum waste and maximum joy.
City lights and business nights.
When you require streetcar desire for higher heights.

No place for beginners or sensitive hearts
When sentiment is left to chance.
No place to be ending but somewhere to start.

No need to ask.
He’s a smooth operator,
Smooth operator,
Smooth operator,
Smooth operator.

Coast to coast, L.A. to Chicago, western male.
Across the north and south, to Key Largo, love for sale.

Face to face, each classic case.
We shadow box and double cross,
Yet need the chase.

A license to love, insurance to hold.
Melts all your memories, change into gold.
His eyes are like angels, his heart is cold.

No need to ask.
He’s a smooth operator,
Smooth operator,
Smooth operator,
Smooth operator.

Coast to coast, L.A. to Chicago, western male.
Across the north and south, to Key Largo, love for sale.

Smooth operator,
Smooth operator,
Smooth operator,
Smooth operator,
Smooth operator

Smooth operator,
Smooth operator,
Smooth operator

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