Thirty two years ago today, Sade released “Smooth Operator” and changed the way the world thought about helpful phone assistants on the other side of a hotline. And to commemorate this extremely sensual anniversary, crooner Nick Waterhouse has a released a ’60s lounge cover of the classic track.
I always thought that Sade Adu wrote “Smooth Operator” as a celebration about her own, silken, flawless voice instead of some object of desire. Sure, she describes another as the subject of her song, and the music video highlights a cool, calm criminal undertaking risky ’80s drug business, but I have always felt most comfortable thinking of the song as a feel-yourself type of reflexive jam. Waterhouse has most definitely picked up on that, and put his own specific spin on things.
His updated version trades the original ’80s lounge vibe for a ’60s groove, drawing heavily on blue-eyed soul and turning the song into a different, but equally beguiling kind of sexy. There is just as much schmaltz to love in this cover version, but Waterhouse’s voice serves as a stark contrast to Sade’s. He is the solid, alluvial earth to Sade’s wispy, malleable fog. And his delivery works wonderfully, letting you hear the words crisply even as he croaks over a psychedelic organ. Wherever Sade is, I think she would agree that Nick Waterhouse is a smooth operator too.
What do you guys think of the cover? Do you also want to don cocktail attire and head to the nearest speakeasy? Let us know on Twitter.
Also be sure to check out Nick Waterhouse’s new album Never Twice, which drops September 30 via Innovative Leisure.
Matt Grosinger is the music editor of Nerdist and a Sade diehard. You can talk to him about this specific interest (and nothing else) on Twitter @MattGrosinger.