Adele Emily Sandé, MBE (/ˈsændeɪ/ SAN-day; born 10 March 1987), known professionally as Emeli Sandé, is a Scottish singer and songwriter. Born in Sunderland, Tyne and Wear and raised in Alford, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, by an English mother and Zambian father, Sandé rose to prominence after being a featured artist on the 2009 Chipmunk track “Diamond Rings”. It was their first top 10 single on the UK Singles Chart. In 2010, she was featured on “Never Be Your Woman” by the rapper Wiley, which was another top ten hit. In 2012, she received the Brit Awards’ Critics’ Choice Award.
Sandé released her first solo single “Heaven” in August 2011. She has two number-one singles across the UK and Ireland with “Read All About It” with Professor Green and “Beneath Your Beautiful”, a collaboration with Labrinth. Her album Our Version of Events spent ten non-consecutive weeks at number one and became the best-selling album of 2012 in the UK, with over 1 million sales. In 2012, she performed in both the Opening and Closing ceremonies of the London Olympics. In 2013, at the Brit Awards 2013 ceremony, she won two awards: Best British Female Solo Artist, and British Album of the Year.
In 2016, she released her second studio album Long Live the Angels, which debuted at number 2 on the UK album chart. In 2017, she won the Brit Award for Best British Female Solo Artist, becoming her fourth win in total. Sandé was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2017 Birthday Honours for her services to music.
Adele Emily Sandé was born in Sunderland, to a Zambian father, Joel Sandé, and an English mother, Diane Sandé-Wood, on 10 March 1987. Her father, having moved from Zambia, met her mother while they were both at the polytechnic in Sunderland. The family moved to Alford, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, when she was four.
Sandé wrote her first song at the age of 11, for her primary-school talent show. She remembers that that, “was the first time I thought I might be a songwriter. I always knew I wanted to be a musician and I knew I wanted to write because the people I was listening to all wrote. I never thought it was an option to sing anyone else’s songs.” The first song she wrote was called “Tomorrow Starts Again” – the song had proper structure and even a middle eight.
Sandé attended school at Alford Academy, where her father was a teacher. She said, “I hated to be ill and to miss a day because I was so hungry to learn. I was very shy, nerdy and extremely well-behaved. Inevitably, throughout secondary school, it was part and parcel of my identity that I was Mr. Sandé’s daughter. No way could I muck about or get into trouble, because it would’ve got back to him within minutes. And Dad was strict, let me tell you.” Choice FM invited the 15-year-old Sandé to London to take part in their “Rapology” competition. Richard Blackwood also had her down to MTV’s Camden studios to sing gospel. It was the first London appearance of her career. By the time she reached the age of 16, she had a record deal with Telstar within reach. However, understanding the opportunity that university could also offer her, she turned down the deal. She studied medicine, in the five-year MBChB course at the University of Glasgow, but left after obtaining a degree in clinical medicine, specializing in neuroscience. She has stated that education was important to her, because, if her music career failed, she would have something to fall back on. Her manager Adrian Sykes, she said, had waited patiently from when she was 16: “Adrian really respects that I want to get an education behind me. He also knows my parents are keen that I finish university”.
There have been many who have inspired Sandé throughout her life. One important influence was Frida Kahlo, so important that she has a tattoo of the artist’s portrait on her forearm. Just after leaving medical school, she made the decision to get the tattoo, which, for her, represented strength and bravery. Kahlo was inspirational for Sandé due to the unique story of her battle with polio at a very young age that went on to inspire her artwork. She knew that her decision to pursue music and quit school would require a sense of fearlessness that she gained through Kahlo’s expression of art.
2008–2010: Career beginnings.
Sandé’s sister made a video of her playing the piano and singing to one of her favourite songs, “Nasty Little Lady”. They sent the clip to Trevor Nelson’s BBC Urban music competition. Sandé won the show and was offered a record deal, but the management that she met via the competition decided against the deal. Emeli had become involved in the Urban Scot collective who helped and encouraged her career by promoting her in Scotland, and – according to Emeli Sandé: The Biography by David Nolan (2013) – also released an album of songs called Have You Heard? on Glasgow’s Souljawn Records, which was sold at gigs. Several tracks were also made available to download.
Her parents also sent BBC Radio 1Xtra a CD of her songs. Ras Kwame played her on his “Homegrown Sessions”, and four artists that year were asked to do a show in Soho. She met with Watford-born music producer/writer Shahid Khan aka Naughty Boy, who had previously worked with Ms Dynamite and Bashy, and they began writing tracks for artists such as Alesha Dixon, Chipmunk, Professor Green, Devlin, Preeya Kalidas, Cheryl Cole, and Tinie Tempah. Sandé soon signed a record deal with Virgin Records and EMI Records.
In an interview, she said “I was doing a show in London for 1Xtra and I met this guy called Naughty Boy. We got in the studio and we clicked work wise. We just started writing, not necessarily for me, we just thought ‘let’s write a pop tune’ and experiment. And we wrote the Chipmunk track, and I thought nothing of it. Naughty Boy sent it off to Chipmunk who really liked it and wrote his stuff around it.” She signed a record deal with Virgin Records in 2010. She later signed another deal with EMI Records in early 2011. Sandé made her singing career debut in 2009 after appearing on the track she wrote for Chipmunk’s debut single, “Diamond Rings”. The single charted at No. 6 on the UK Singles Charts, making it Chipmunk and Sandé’s first-ever Top 10 Hit.
She later appeared on another single singing guest vocals, after collaborating with Wiley on his comeback single “Never Be Your Woman”, the single charted at number-eight on the UK Singles Charts becoming Sandé’s second consecutive Top 10 Single. Sandé decided against using the name Adele Sandé, due to Adele’s growing success, so used her middle name instead. She revealed: “I changed it as soon as Adele came out. I just thought, ‘You’ve kind of taken the [name] now’, so I went with my middle name. She was just getting bigger and bigger, so I thought I just really need it.
2011–2013: Our Version of Events and breakthrough
Sandé at the 2013 Gibraltar Music Festival
Sandé revealed her first solo single would be released in early 2011. There was some speculation surrounding which track she would release, after many newspapers stated that it would be “Daddy”. The first official single from her upcoming debut album was “Heaven”, released on 14 August 2011. The song received positive reviews from blogs such as This Must Be Pop and Robot Pigeon. She confirmed that “Daddy” would be the second official single released from Our Version of Events. Sandé achieved her first number-one single on the UK Singles Chart after “Read All About It” entered at number-one.
On 26 November, Sandé performed at the LG ARENA in Birmingham for BRMB 2011. On 15 December 2011, she was named as the Brit Awards Critics’ Choice for 2012. Her album Our Version of Events reached number one in the UK after its release in February 2012. Sandé’s debut album includes songs written by her and has been reviewed as having “richly melodic, classically powerful, retro-futurist soul-pop songs”.
It was announced that she was up for another BRIT Award in 2012, for British Breakthrough Act. Sandé went on to write material for the original line-up of Sugababes. On 24 January 2012, Sandé performed a one-off gig for Q Magazine at XOYO, London. She was supported by British soul singer Michael Kiwanuka. She recorded a version of David Guetta’s “Titanium” and the pair performed the song at NRJ Music Awards in France. Sandé has penned a track for Naughty Boy’s upcoming LP entitled “Hollywood” which features soul singer Gabrielle. It is about fame coming and going and will be released in November.
On 27 July 2012, Sandé sang “Abide with Me” at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics, and her song “Heaven” was used to accompany the section with Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Both appear on the Isles of Wonder CD of the opening ceremony’s music. NBC also used her song “Wonder” during the credits roll at the end of the tape-delayed ceremony broadcast in the United States. On 12 August 2012, Sandé sang “Read All About It (Part III)” at the closing ceremony, while a video montage of emotional scenes from the games was shown. She also covered a version of John Lennon’s “Imagine” exclusively for the BBC, who used it for their end credits montage at the conclusion of their Olympics coverage. Sandé is a winner of the 2013 European Border Breakers Awards. The European Border Breakers Awards honour the best new music acts in Europe. The award ceremony takes place at the Eurosonic Noorderslag music festival in Groningen (NL). She won two BRIT 2013 awards for Best British female and Best British Album. In January 2013 it was revealed that Ella Henderson has anticipated work with Sandé on her debut album. The song “Next to Me” won two Ivor Novello Awards for “Best Song Musically and Lyrically” and “PRS for Music Most Performed Work” in 2013.
2013–2017: Long Live the Angels and community presence.
In May 2013, she performed at the White House in Washington, D.C., as one of the featured artists at the award ceremony when President Obama presented Carole King with the Library of Congress Gershwin Medal. In June 2013, Sandé started writing her second upcoming studio album, which was released in 2016. She had already written several songs, including “Pluto” with Naughty Boy, “Enough”, “Call Me What You Like”, “You and Me” and “This Much Is True”, which was written for her former husband, Adam. During U.S. Summer Tour in July 2013, Sandé performed “Free” from Rudimental’s album Home, “Lifted” from Naughty Boy’s album Hotel Cabana.
With her speedy success worldwide and especially between the UK and the US, Sandé has been a presence in many important campaigns, aside from her powerful stance on social justice through her songwriting. Whether through performances at fundraising concerts or campaigns of her own, she backs up her lyrics of social change and equality with action. With the honour of performing at Elton John’s AIDS Foundation Event in 2013, she has shown her support in raising money and awareness for the HIV/AIDS problem in the world. More specifically, she understands the seriousness of HIV/AIDS in her father’s home origin of Zambia which provides a deeper passion to support the cause. She is also one face of Fashion Targets Breast Cancer in the effort to also create awareness and funding for the fight against breast cancer. More recently, Sandé has helped launch a programme of her own called “Community Clavinova”, a nationwide opportunity for organizations of many kinds to receive free Clavinovas through the partnership of Sandé and Yamaha UK. As a passionate musician, she understands the importance of having resources and is excited to help provide groups with the opportunity to receive such a great contribution their organizations.
In 2013, Sandé revealed that she has been working on her second studio album, slated to be released in 2016. On 15 November 2014, Sandé joined the charity group Band Aid 30 along with other British and Irish pop acts, recording the latest version of the track “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” at Sarm West Studios in Notting Hill, London, to raise money for the 2014 Ebola crisis in Western Africa.
On 25 August 2016, Sandé shared a preview of a song from her upcoming album entitled ‘Intermission’ on her social media accounts, with the caption “Inhale, exhale, release and let yourself receive forgiveness.” Following a number of teasers, it was announced that “Hurts” would be released on 16 September as the lead single. Describing the song, she said: “I wanted to release ‘Hurts’ first because it felt like everything I’ve avoided saying for so long. It’s a real explosion. It’s everything I wish I’d said years and years ago. I didn’t want to hold anything back anymore.” On 15 September, Sandé announced on her social media accounts that her new album would be called ‘Long Live The Angels’ and that it would be released on 11 November 2016. Her song Hurts from the album Long Live the Angels was published on 5 October. The album was released on the proposed date. The album debuted at number 2 on the UK album chart. The following year, Sandé gave her Long Live the Angels Tour, which is her first to include Arena dates.
In 2017, she received the Brit Awards’ Best British Female Solo Artist award, becoming her fourth win in total. On 2 October 2017, Sandé was also awarded with a BASCA Gold Badge award in recognition of her unique contribution to music.
2019–present: Real Life and new music.
On 12 April 2019, Emeli Sandé announced her third album, Real Life, out 7 June on Virgin/EMI/Universal Music. It was recorded following an intense personal journey of self-doubt and self-discovery.
On 23 May 2019, the track “Extraordinary Being” from the upcoming album was released as the soundtrack for the film X-Men – Dark Phoenix.
On 13 September 2019, Sandé released Real Life, her third studio album. On 16th September 2021, she released the video of her new single “Family”.