Real Love is the second studio album by British singer Lisa Stansfield, released by Arista Records on 11 November 1991. Stansfield co-wrote all songs with Ian Devaney and Andy Morris. Devaney and Morris also produced the album. Real Love received positive reviews from music critics and reached top ten on the charts in various countries, including number three in the United Kingdom. Five singles were released from the album, including "Change" (number one on the US Hot Dance Club Songs) and "All Woman" (number one on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs).
Between her very successful debut album Affection and her next album Real Love, Stansfield recorded "Down in the Depths" which was written by Cole Porter in 1936. This track was included on the AIDS charity compilation Red Hot + Blue, released in September 1990. The music video was also filmed and directed by Philippe Gautier. In 2003, "Down in the Depths" was included on Stansfield's album, Biography: The Greatest Hits. The singer recorded songs for Real Love in 1991.
The album was entirely written by Stansfield, Ian Devaney and Andy Morris, and produced by Devaney and Morris. It includes thirteen songs except for Japan where Real Love was issued with a bonus track, "When You're Gone." The Japanese edition has also a different cover art. The LP version of the album does not contain "First Joy," "Tenderly" and "A Little More Love." In North America, Real Love was released with different sequence of the tracks. In 2003, the album was remastered and re-released as limited edition digipak with three bonus songs: "When You're Gone," "Everything Will Get Better" (from the single "All Woman") and "Change" remixed by Frankie Knuckles.
The first single, "Change" was released on 7 October 1991. In Europe, it became a hit reaching top ten in Italy, Belgium, Spain, Netherlands and the United Kingdom. In the United States, "Change" peaked at number one on the Hot Dance Club Songs, number twelve on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, number thirteen on the Adult Contemporary Singles and number twenty-seven on the Billboard Hot 100. It also reached number ten in Canada. The second single, "All Woman" was issued on 9 December 1991. The song peaked inside top forty in the European countries, including Italy, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden. "All Woman" was successful on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs in the United States and topped this chart for one week. On the Billboard Hot 100, it reached number fifty-six and on the Adult Contemporary Singles, "All Woman peaked at number twenty-one. The single's B-side, "Everything Will Get Better" reached number thirty-six on the Hot Dance Club Songs. The third European single, "Time to Make You Mine" was released on 2 March 1992 and peaked inside top forty in the United Kingdom (number fourteen) and Switzerland (number thirty-three). "Set Your Loving Free" was issued as the fourth and last single in Europe and became another top forty hit, reaching number twenty-eight in the United Kingdom and number thirty-six in the Netherlands. The third US single, "A Little More Love" was released on 30 June 1992 and peaked at number thirty on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. Its B-side, "Set Your Loving Free" reached number twenty on the Hot Dance Club Songs. In 2003, "Change," "All Woman," "Time to Make You Mine" and "Set Your Loving Free" were included on Biography: The Greatest Hits.
Real Love received positive reviews from music critics. Alex Henderson from Allmusic wrote that the album contains definite gems, including the poigant and heartbreaking ballad "All Woman," the spunky "Soul Deep" and the sleek "Set Your Loving Free." He added that Real Love is far superior to most '90s R&B and Stansfield is a major talent. Marisa Fox from Entertainment Weekly stated that with Real Love, Stansfield proved she isn't just another "soul crooner with robust vocals and an air of longing." The aptly titled Real Love is a collection of steamy love songs, accented with flutes, horns, and sometimes, lush, Barry White-like orchestration. Stansfield has cut out slogans in favor of meaty personal politics, taking a more clinical look at what triggers her emotions. On '"Symptoms of Loneliness and Heartache," she reaches deep down in her heart (and throat) to tell an ex: "I don't see emotion or quality of life/Just symptoms of loneliness and heartache." And yet she isn't afraid to cut loose, as on "It's Got to Be Real." Ultimately, Stansfield comes off as a hopeless romantic who has all the strength and determination to convert even the worst cynic.Stephen Holden from the Rolling Stone wrote that Stansfield is one of the first British stars to redo American pop-soul styles of the Seventies. Shaped with the help of her songwriting and producing collaborators Ian Devaney and Andy Morris, her retro disco crossbreeds the harmonic vocabulary of mid-Seventies Philly soul with the lush, cheesy textures of Barry White and his Love Unlimited Orchestra. Up-to-the-minute electronic dance beats make it all sound contemporary. What makes the mix special is Stansfield's wantonly emotive singing, which is "as luscious as melting chocolate." On her second album, her voice is even richer and the arrangements more inventive and far-reaching than on Affection, her 1989 debut. The new album's gem, "All Woman" is an almost overripe ballad about a long-suffering wife that sounds tailor-made for Gladys Knight, although Knight would have a hard time topping Stansfield's version. Like everything else on the album, from the trancelike disco prayer of the title track to the inspirational lover's promise "Set Your Loving Free," Real Love turns the world into a "gold-and-velvet-trimmed valentine box in which romantic dreams are all that matter." Accordong to Q, the album is excellent and Musician stated that it is a knockout with shrewd and heartfelt music.The New York Times wrote that Stansfield brings danceable mid-1970's-style pop to a "pinnacle of musical sophistication and emotional heat."Robert Christgau chose "All Woman" as the best track on the album. According to CD Universe, Real Love features a number of top-notch tunes, most notably the hit singles "Change" and "All Woman." While the former song plays up the energetic, club-oriented aspect of Stansfield's aesthetic, the latter number is a R&B ballad that reinforces the vocalist's reputation as one of England's finest blue-eyed-soul acts. The album's true charm, however, lies in its underrated album cuts, particularly the celebratory "Soul Deep," which includes funky Stevie Wonder-like keyboard lines, and the emotive string-tinged title track.
The album was commercially successful and reached top ten in the following European countries: United Kingdom (number three), Netherlands (number five), Germany (number nine) and Belgium (number ten). In other parts of Europe, it peaked inside top forty. Real Love also reached number twenty-five in New Zealand, number thirty-eight in Japan and number forty in Australia. In the United States, it peaked at number six on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and number forty-three on the Billboard 200. It also reached number thirty-one in Canada. Real Love was certified 2× Platinum in the United Kingdom and Gold in the United States, Canada, Germany and Switzerland.