|Single by Sade|
|from the album Diamond Life|
|Released||15 September 1984 (UK)
2 March 1985 (US)
|Recorded||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 fourth and final single from Diamond Life (in both the United States and 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.
"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, yet 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 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 also featured in the 2005 film Fun with Dick and Jane.
- The song was used also in the movie This Means War.
- The lyrics "Coast to Coast/L.A to 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 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" is referenced in a 2016 commercial for National Car Rental
- Filipino bossa nova singer Sitti recorded a cover of the song in 2007 for her second studio album My Bossa Nova.
- Helena Paparizou performed the song live at Mad Secret Concert 2005. The song was officially released at her album "Iparhei Logos"
- R&B singer Pru covered the song on her self-titled album in 2000.
- Covered by Cuban percussionist Mongo Santamaría on his 1987 release Soy Yo (along with another '80s quiet storm hit, Anita Baker's "Sweet Love"). Also featured on his 2000 release Mucho Mambo Mongo.
- Danish vocal group Basix recorded the song for their The Grass album.
- It was also covered in a death metal version by Ten Masked Men on their 1999 The Ten Masked Men Strike Back EP.
- Señor Coconut y Su Conjunto covered the song on their 2003 Fiesta Songs album.
- Swedish crooner James Gicho released a cover version in 2005, produced by Håkan Lidbo.
- Paloma Faith performed a cover of the song as part of the "Great British Songbook" segment of Simon Mayo's Radio 2 programme on 18 January 2009, where she claimed to suspect she knew who the song was about.
- Trumpeter Greg Adams provided an instrumental version of the song off his 1995 Hidden Agenda album.
- Basia performed a jazzy remake. The intro to her version of Smooth Operator was used in a 2008 Nissan Teana (Maxima) TV commercial in Japan. It is unreleased, but can be found on services such as YouTube.
- The duo Asaro and Wolcott, composed of vocalist Catherine Asaro and jazz musician Donald Wolcott, covered the song in 2010 on their EP Goodbye note.
- The Venezuelan a cappella Band Sie7e Palos recorded this song for their most recent album "Rumba Romance", which was released on 2011.
- Smooth Operator was covered by the Japanese Band Oceanlane
- Korean R&B/soul singer, G.Soul, made a Korean remake of the song featuring rapper San E. He released the remake in February 2016.
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|
- Paloma Faith: Upside Down / Smooth Operator
- 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 June 19, 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". IRMA. Retrieved 2009-01-09.
- Currin, Brian. "South African Rock Lists Website - SA Charts 1965 - 1989 Acts (S)". rock.co.za. Retrieved 2016-10-11.
- "Chart Stats – Sade – Smooth Operator". Chart Stats. Archived from the original on 2012-08-14. Retrieved 2009-01-09.
- "Sade > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-01-09.