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Track Review

Pop songs by female singers chastising lyin', cheatin', heart-breakin' cads are myriad. It's arguably less often that we hear the polar opposite: a song earnestly and unabashedly singing the praises of a man's faithfulness, fidelity and commitment to his lady, no matter what.

That's what Scottish singer-songwriter Emeli Sandé has crafted with "Next to Me," her breakthrough hit on this side of the pond after logging nine other hits back in her native U.K. over the last couple of years.

In many ways, Sandé sounds more than a little like an alternate-universe version of  Adele. And by alternate universe I mean someone who's had much better luck at love. Like Adele, she pounds the ivories with melodic authority. Like Adele, she's gifted with a soaring, memorable voice—especially when it's wedded to a gospel-style arrangement like the one we find here. In fact, Sandé actually shares her first name with Adele, but has decided to go by her middle name for the sake of artistic differentiation.

Unlike Adele, the relationship Sandé sings about on "Next to Me" couldn't be going better, from the sounds of it.

It begins with a litany of all the places you won't find her guy: "You won't find him drinking at the table/Rolling dice and staying out 'til 3:00/You won't ever find him be unfaithful." So where will we find him? Sandé's proud to tell us, over and over, in the song's oft-repeated chorus: "Next to me, ooh-hoo/Next to me, ooh-hoo/Next to me, ooh-hoo/You will find him, you'll find him next to me."

As the song progresses, Sandé details all manner of high-pressure situations that might tempt some men to flee—but not hers. "When the money's spent and all my friends have vanished/And I can't seem to find no help or love for free/I know there's no need for me to panic/'Cause I'll find him, I'll find him next to me."

The amplitude of potential peril ratchets up a notch further in the third verse. "But even when the skies are gray and all the doors are closing/And the rising pressure makes it hard to breathe," she has no fears about her faithful beau bugging out for less claustrophobic territory elsewhere.

And then things get positively apocalyptic. "When the end has come and buildings falling down fast/When we've spoilt the land and dried up all the sea/When everyone has lost their heads around us," we know by now, of course, that Sandé's faithful man isn't going anywhere. Her voice and spirit soar with, "You will find him, you'll find him next to me."

Artists, of course, don't always base their musical narrative on autobiographical experiences. But in this case, the two seem to overlap perfectly. Sandé married marine biologist Adam Gouraguine in 2012. And in early 2013, the 25-year-old told metro.co.uk, "Ever since I got married in September I feel a lot healthier, and I'm a lot happier." She also praised her husband's unselfish support when she decided to give a music career her full attention after four years of medical school. "He's been there from the day I left med school to come down here and try it all out. He's just very happy for me anyway."

It seems clear those sentiments served as the happy inspiration for Sandé's unquenchably upbeat "Next to Me."

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Million-selling hit reached No. 25 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart and topped the dance chart.

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March 3, 2013

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Adam R. Holz

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