I've read several reviews of Seal's fifth cd "System". I've entertained all the arguments for and against "System". I, too, have been a fan of Seal since 1991. I, too, have seen him in concert at Red Rocks in June 1995 with Des'ree opening for him. I am a big fan of Trevor Horn (The Buggles, Yes, Peter Gabriel, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Art Of Noise, etc.) I agree that MOST of the time when an artist gets married or has children their music goes downhill. I also agree that the older an artist gets, the less relevant their new music is, and agree that they've already said what they wanted to say when they were young.
However, for me, Seal has always been consistent. Sure, there are songs on each of his discs that I could probably program out, but overall, his past four discs have been very consistent. Unlike others, in 1998, I bought "Human Beings", but it took me a long time to like it. Would I consider it his best work? No. His most artistic? Maybe.
I knew Stuart Price was the same guy who did Madonna's "Confessions On A Dancefloor" (which was average for Madonna in my opinion). So, I listened to "System" many times before sitting down to write my review here. I agree that Stuart Price's production detracts from what Trevor Horn was able to enhance. Seal's lyrics are the same though. I don't feel he has nothing to say. The lyrics are more uplifting (marriage and child can do that to some men) and the music goes with that newfound sense of happiness. Still, "If It's In My Mind, It's On My Face" has that old Seal insight in which he talks about hanging in there. Wasn't that also what "Crazy" and "Killer" were about too? "Amazing" is good in both versions, and also is a song about affirmation.
The sound of "System" is dancefloor friendly, but it differs in one significant way from his debut--variety. His debut alternated between club tracks and acoustic numbers and a mixture of both. "System" is almost purely electronic, though there is strong acoustic guitar on "Dumb" and he slows down for "Wedding Day", a target for jokes since he chose to duet with his wife Heidi Klum of "Project Runway". He also slows down for "Rolling" which is probably his most "Human Beings" era sounding.
To me, "System" is another consistent chapter in Seal's career whether fans like the disc or not. Some say with "Human Beings" he didn't care what the mainstream wanted, but "System" is the same thing. He made this music without caring what his fans wanted. It sounds like he was feeling good and wanted to get that onto record right now. Maybe his next album won't feel as happy, but ten years from now fans might want to come back to "System" and revisit a positive time in Seal's career. Every artist goes back to the beginning from time to time before moving onto their next phase. "System" is a clean, short dance album with many of the same hallmarks of Seal's previous works such as great vocals, strong lyrics and memorable songs. "Amazing", "Just Like Before", "The Right Life", "Rolling" and "If It's In My Mind, It's On My Face" are all solid, memorable tracks. The rest are good, but not great. Four stars, just like "Seal IV".