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Emeli Sandé returns with anthems, delivers 'goosebumps' in third full-length album

“Real Life,” her third full-length album, delivers "goosebumps"
Image: Emeli Sande performs at Manchester Pride in England on Aug. 24, 2019.
Emeli Sande performs at Manchester Pride in England on Aug. 24, 2019.Shirlaine Forrest / Getty Images file

Emeli Sandé’s music has always leaned into the epic. Her clear, full voice powers sweeping anthems, most of which seem perfectly suited for bringing energy to momentous occasions (remember her at the 2012 Olympic Games?), but just as good for motivating everyday people trying to make it through their every day.

“Real Life,” her third full-length album, finds the acclaimed British singer-songwriter-pianist keeping her good thing — playing motivator — going. And that’s good for fans.

That much seems clear from first single “Sparrow,” a goosebump-inducing battle cry for the overlooked and undervalued. “We’ve got magic in our bones, just like the stars we’re going to shine bright and golden,” Sandé sings, her voice full of resolve.

She is great on the dreamy guitar and drum-led “Love to Help”; endearing on album gem “Free as a Bird,” with its strings and soulful choir; and completely in her groove on “Extraordinary Being.” On that song she sings, “You are what God imagined. You are a true perfection. Baby you’re made of stars. Don’t let nobody tell you different.”

It would be difficult not to believe her.

But when Sandé mixes her grandeur with the ordinary, the results sometimes feel mismatched. That’s the case with the title track “Real Life,” which finds Sandé grappling with the day-to-day challenges of maintaining a long-term relationship. The lyrics are relatable, but the addition of a church organ and gospel choir feels like overkill.

Still, Sandé rarely goes wrong, and overall “Real Life” is another solid album.