NME (Magazine) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "Sandé clearly has the chops to stand out in the sophisticated cross-platform arms race of modern pop music -- the soaring `Shakes' and `Sweet Architect' are proof of that..."
Emeli Sandé had three U.K. Top Ten hits as a featured artist before she released her 2012 debut album. Our Version of Events, a multi-platinum smash and the source of four additional Top Ten singles, continued the singer and songwriter's escalation. There was a somewhat similar lead-up to proper album number two. Between releases, she fronted the similarly successful likes of Labrinth's "Beneath Your Beautiful," Naughty Boy's "Lifted," and David Guetta's "What I Did for Love." That Sandé was sought by Rihanna, Alicia Keys, and Leona Lewis, and frequently had her songs performed on televised singing competitions, indicated the regard with which she was held as a writer. Long Live the Angels, her second proper album, is built to maintain her rank. Guest appearances are once again kept to a minimum, placing the spotlight squarely on Sandé's gracefully open demonstrations of salvation, devotion, pain, and perseverance. (She married her long-term partner in 2012 and divorced shortly thereafter.) Sandé visited her father in Zambia and added his voice, as well as a local children's choir, to "Tenderly," a lilting plea for emotional refuge. On the sparse, snaking "Garden," another cut regarding shelter, Aine Zion provides the intro and outro, while Jay Electronica adds a burning intensity over the album's lone deep bassline. Apart from those spots and multiple powerful appearances from a gospel choir, it's all Sandé all the time. Ballads prevail as she deals with the consequences of a broken relationship, lamenting false dreams, yearning for fulfillment, and admitting her inability to simply brush it off. In "I'd Rather Not," she ultimately rejects the notion of a second chance, comparing the damage to natural catastrophes and bullet wounds. Sandé sings with more precision and force without overselling anything. There's also more nuance to her approach, as in "Lonely," where the line "Baby I'm outta here" is sung twice in a row, first with resolve, then with a deep ache. Certain listeners might bemoan the shortage of uptempo belters here, but one attentive and thorough listen presents a clear justification. ~ Andy Kellman