Cool Song: Emeli Sandé “Family”

Paul Cantor
3 min readNov 2, 2021

About ten years ago, as it happens in the music business sometimes, I went in to a meeting with a British music exec who was working in the United States. I was pitching him on some business — or maybe he was pitching me? — but his bread and butter was stuff from the UK.

“Are you up on Emeli Sandé?” he asked this Yankee. “She’s got this song — “Heaven” — it’s huge overseas.”

I confessed I had never heard of the Scottish musician, but was impressed when he pulled up the video, and from then on was looking out for her. When she released her album, Our Version of Events in 2012, I was really taken with it. And so, it would seem, was everyone else, as it became the highest-selling record in the UK that year. But until this day, I still play it, which I think says something, and the big single from the album, “Next To Me,” is arguably one of the best songs of the last decade.

Coincidentally, around that time I think I even interviewed her once — she called in from somewhere across the water, and she was nice as hell, but to be honest I don’t know if that was me interviewing her or some version of me that I think I once was and now can’t remember.

Anyway, it’s a blur, and whatever reason, I lost track of what Emeli Sandé was doing. It was probably more my fault than hers, because she did put out an album in 2016 (Long Live the Angels), and I’m sure I even listened to it at the time; still, it seemed to get lost in a soup of content that has only become more messier in the years since.

She’s back now though. The self-produced “Look What You’ve Done,” recently-released, is an interesting, garage-like track, and portends well for her next full length project. But the song that is giving me life is “Family.”

Produced by Henry Davies, a recording engineer who has been behind the boards for songs from Sam Smith, Ellie Goulding and many others, it’s got a syncopated drum groove over an airy synth swell, that builds until it climaxes midway, on top of which Sandé sings:

If you’re feeling low know you’ll rise again
Got knocked down nine times but get up for ten
You got this (You got this)
And though it seems like the night won’t end
The morning’s right around the river bend
I promise

No red light
Or dark night
Can stop me
No wall
No matter how tall
Can block me
No red light
Or dark night
Can stop we, no no
No wall
No matter how tall
Can block we
No no no way

It’s a deceptively catchy jam, and one that takes you by surprise, building and building until you’re lost in a haze of autotune and good energy, the kind I’m definitely looking for more of these days.

If you liked this article, please consider pre-ordering my first book: “Most Dope: The Extraordinary Life of Mac Miller,” in stores January 18th, 2022.

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Paul Cantor

Wrote for the New York Times, New York Magazine, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Vice, Fader, Vibe, XXL, MTV News, many other places.