Smooth Operator

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"Smooth Operator"
Sade - Smooth Operator.png
Single by Sade
from the album Diamond Life
  • "Spirit"
  • "Red Eye"
Released28 August 1984 (1984-08-28)[1]
StudioPower Plant (London)
Length4:58 (album version)
4:18 (UK Single Remix)
3:46 (Promo Version)
Producer(s)Robin Millar
Sade singles chronology
"When Am I Going to Make a Living"
"Smooth Operator"
"Hang On to Your Love"
Music video
"Smooth Operator" on YouTube
"Smooth Operator" (12″ version) on YouTube

"Smooth Operator" is a song by English band Sade from their debut studio album, Diamond Life (1984). It was released as the album's third single 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. Released on 28 August 1984, it reached number 19 on the UK Singles Chart.

In the United States, "Smooth Operator" was released in February 1985, serving as the album's second US single. The song became Sade's first top-10 entry in the US, peaking at number five on the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks in May 1985. It 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 highest-peaking single in the UK to date, "Smooth Operator" is the band's breakthrough single 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.

Composition and lyrics[edit]

"Smooth Operator" is about a fashionable con-man who moves within high social circles. 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"[5] imply that he also 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, played by actor Michael Feast, 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. Apparently, he succeeds in evading law enforcement, who have him under surveillance. In the video, the operator cheats on Sade with a waitress of the nightclub (played by actress Amanda Pays). However, as revealed in the extended version of the video which contains the composition "Red Eye" (the next song on 12-inch single), Sade, cooperating with the police, hides behind the nightclub equipment and sees the criminal return to the club. Then she bumps into a box, causing a noise, and the criminal chases after her. When the police arrive outside, he tries to escape from them from rooftop to rooftop until he is shot and then falls from a rooftop to his death.

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.


Tanya Rena Jefferson of AXS stated: "The warm tonal voice of Sade sings about a smooth operator con artist lover boy. 'Smooth Operator' reached number 1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary charts in 1985."[6] Sophie Heawood of The Guardian commented: "Arguably the band's signature single, the accuracy with which its suave music, complete with sax solo, conveyed the business-class lifestyle of its subject set the tone for how they would be perceived over their entire career. As a credo, 'We move in space with minimum waste and maximum joy' remains revelatory."[7] Frank Guan of Vulture commented: "Along with an ace lead saxophone and winding bass line, the secret to success for Sade's biggest early hit is hiding in plain sight: the heartless playboy traversing cities and continents in search of pleasure that she narrates serves as an allegory for Global Capitalism, but also for herself: her international range and her voice – every time she croons 'smooth operator', there's a measure of self-reference. Her amoral protagonist's villainy is rendered in such lovely phrases that the listener can't help but be seduced."[8]

Track listings[edit]



Certifications for "Smooth Operator"
Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[37] Silver 200,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "New Singles" (PDF). Music Week. 25 August 1984. p. 20. ISSN 0265-1548 – via World Radio History.
  2. ^ Harvey, Eric (19 May 2012). "The Quiet Storm". Pitchfork. Retrieved 11 October 2022.
  3. ^ "Sophisti-Pop - The Bluffer's Guide". Stylus Magazine. 4 September 2011. Archived from the original on 4 September 2011. Retrieved 7 December 2019.
  4. ^ Harrington, Jim (2005). "Sade - Diamond Life". In Dimery, Robert (ed.). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. London: Cassell Illustrated. p. 518.
  5. ^ "Smooth Operator". Retrieved 3 March 2021.
  6. ^ Jefferson, Tanya Rena (2 April 2015). "Sade's 10 best songs". AXS. Archived from the original on 20 June 2019. Retrieved 7 December 2019.
  7. ^ Heawood, Sophie (13 March 2012). "Why Sade is bigger in the US than Adele". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 20 June 2019. Retrieved 7 December 2019.
  8. ^ Guan, Frank (26 October 2017). "All 73 Sade Songs, Ranked From Worst to Best". Vulture. Archived from the original on 21 June 2019. Retrieved 7 December 2019.
  9. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 263. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  10. ^ "Sade – Smooth Operator" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  11. ^ "Sade – Smooth Operator" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  12. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 0536." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
  13. ^ "Top RPM Adult Contemporary: Issue 8332." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  14. ^ "European Top 100 Singles" (PDF). Eurotipsheet. Vol. 1, no. 31. 29 October 1984. p. 4. OCLC 29800226 – via World Radio History.
  15. ^ "Sade – Smooth Operator" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  16. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Smooth Operator". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  17. ^ "Classifiche". Musica e dischi (in Italian). Retrieved 2 June 2022. Select "Singoli" in the "Tipo" field, type "Sade" in the "Artista" field and press "cerca".
  18. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Sade" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  19. ^ "Sade – Smooth Operator" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  20. ^ "Sade – Smooth Operator". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  21. ^ Currin, Brian. "SA Charts 1965–1989 (As presented on Springbok Radio/Radio Orion) – Acts S". The South African Rock Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on 11 October 2016. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  22. ^ "Sade – Smooth Operator". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  23. ^ "Sade: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 28 December 2017.
  24. ^ "Sade Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  25. ^ "Sade Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  26. ^ "Sade Chart History (Dance Club Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  27. ^ "Sade Chart History (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  28. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 Singles – Week ending June 1, 1985". Cash Box. Archived from the original on 16 March 2019. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  29. ^ "The Cash Box Top 100 Black Contemporary – Week ending May 18, 1985". Cash Box. Retrieved 24 January 2021.
  30. ^ " – Sade – Smooth Operator". GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  31. ^ "RPM's Top 100 Singles of 1985". RPM. Vol. 43, no. 16. 28 December 1985. ISSN 0033-7064. Archived from the original on 2 April 2019 – via Library and Archives Canada.
  32. ^ "Hot 100 Songs – Year-End 1985". Billboard. Archived from the original on 3 October 2019. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  33. ^ "Adult Contemporary Songs – Year-End 1985". Billboard. Archived from the original on 7 December 2019. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  34. ^ "Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs – Year-End 1985". Billboard. Archived from the original on 31 August 2018. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  35. ^ "The Cash Box Year-End Charts: 1985 – Top 100 Pop Singles". Cash Box. 28 December 1985. Archived from the original on 26 March 2019. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  36. ^ "The Cash Box Year-End Charts: 1985 – Top 50 Black Contemporary Singles". Cash Box. 28 December 1985. Retrieved 2 June 2022.
  37. ^ "British single certifications – Sade – Smooth Operator". British Phonographic Industry. 27 December 2019. Retrieved 3 January 2020.