|Single by Sade|
|from the album Diamond Life|
September 3, 1984 (UK)|
February 1985 (US)
1983–1984; The Power Plant |
|Sade singles chronology|
"Smooth Operator" is a song by English band Sade from their debut studio album Diamond Life (1984). It was released as the third single from Diamond Life in the United Kingdom as a 7-inch single with "Spirit" as its B-side, and as a 12-inch maxi single with "Smooth Operator" and "Red Eye" on side A and "Spirit" on side B. The song is also more or less the album's title track as the title comes from the first sung line in the song following a spoken introduction.
"Smooth Operator" became Sade's first Top Ten hit in the US, peaking at number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for two weeks in May 1985. The song spent 13 weeks in the Top 40, and also topped the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart for two weeks. Although "Your Love Is King" remains Sade's biggest hit in the UK to date, "Smooth Operator" is the band's breakthrough hit on the US charts, and their most successful single internationally.
Ray St. John, who co-wrote "Smooth Operator" with Sade Adu, was previously a member of Adu's former band Pride, although he was not a member of the band Sade. The pair co-wrote the song in 1982 while still members of Pride, but did not get around to recording it because St. John left Pride shortly after Sade joined.
Sony Music Entertainment holds the license to this ballad.
Composition and lyrics
"Smooth Operator" is about a fashionable, devious man who lives a jet-set lifestyle. He is popular with women and breaks many hearts. The lyrics "Coast to Coast/LA to Chicago/Western Male/Across the North and South to Key Largo/Love for sale" imply that he uses women to obtain his income. It is also clear that he does not hold sincere affection for these women, as Adu sings near the end, "his heart is cold." The video to this song reinforces the message and the operator appears to be a professional criminal. In one scene, he displays a gun to an interested customer and in others, he appears to be a pimp. He succeeds in evading law enforcement, who have him under surveillance.
This song is noted for Adu's spoken recitation in the song's introduction. Some radio edits have omitted the spoken introduction, and proceeded with the opening sung line of the title of the album, "Diamond Life". Some radio edits have shortened the instrumental saxophone solo, as well as the first repeat of the lines that come after the chorus portions.
In popular culture
- The song was used in the documentary about the rapstar Tupac Shakur in the movie Tupac: Resurrection.
- The song was featured in 1985 episodes of the daytime soap operas Another World, General Hospital, and One Life To Live.
- The song was parodied in an August 2009 issue of The Watermark, re-written as "Pool Operator" in order to humorously provide information about the 2009 Pool School class.
- "Smooth Operator" was lampooned by comedian Lenny Henry as "Lathe Operator".
- The comedy show Mystery Science Theater 3000 referenced "Smooth Operator" while riffing on the short film Why Study Industrial Arts?, during an episode of the sixth season. In response to the phrase "Tool operators", Mike and the Bots begin singing "tool operator" to the tune of "Smooth Operator".
- The song was featured in the 2005 film Fun with Dick and Jane.
- The song was used in the movie This Means War.
- The lyrics "Coast to Coast/and into Chicago" were ranked #1 by Spinner.com on their "20 Worst Lyrics Of All Time" List.
- The song was used in the BBC puppet sitcom Mongrels, in the episode Nelson The Stroke Virgin.
- The song is referred to by rapper Rich Homie Quan in his song "Type Of Way."
- The song is played by the Cleveland Indians when Michael Brantley records a hit.
- The song was parodied by Colombian comedian Andrés López as "En Bus a Pereira".
- The song was used by wrestler Rick Rude as his entrance theme early in his career.
- The song is used in the comedy television series Shaun Micallef's Mad as Hell as a sting in a recurring joke about the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. In the program's sixth season, host Shaun Micallef often says that the audience knows how he feels about Turnbull, then he lovingly gazes at a portrait of Turnbull while the chorus of "Smooth Operator" plays.
- The lyrics "Coast to Coast/L.A. to Chicago" were referenced in The Strokes' song "Drag Queen" from their 2016 EP Future Present Past. The reference is followed by the lyric "I don't know geography all that well".
- The term "Smooth Operator" was referenced in a 2016 commercial for National Car Rental.
Track listings and formats
|Australia (Kent Music Report)||20|
|Austrian Singles Chart||12|
|Dutch Top 40||19|
|German Singles Chart||11|
|Irish Singles Chart||17|
|South African Top 20 ||6|
|Swiss Singles Chart||14|
|UK Singles Chart||19|
|French Singles Chart||9|
|US Billboard Hot 100||5|
|US Billboard Hot Black Singles||5|
|US Billboard Adult Contemporary||1|
|US Billboard Hot Dance Club Play||11|
- Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (Illustrated ed.). Sydney: Australian Chart Book. p. 263. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. N.B. The Kent Report chart was licensed by ARIA between mid-1983 and 19 June 1988.
- "Sade – Smooth Operator – swisscharts.com". SwissCharts.com. Retrieved 2009-01-09.
- "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 42 – 1984". Top 40 (in Dutch). Retrieved 2009-01-09.
- "Musicline.de – Sade – Smooth Operator". Musicline.de (in German). Retrieved 2009-01-09.
- "The Irish Charts – All there is to know > Search results for Sade (from irishcharts.ie)". Imgur.com (original source published by Fireball Media). Retrieved 2017-09-02.
- Currin, Brian. "South African Rock Lists Website - SA Charts 1965 - 1989 Acts (S)". rock.co.za. Retrieved 2016-10-11.
- "Official Charts > Sade". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved 2017-09-02.
- "Sade > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-01-09.