Music review: ‘Seal 7’ — love, heartbreak, healing

Sandy Cohen
Associated Press

For Seal, songwriting is like therapy. And since splitting from Heidi Klum in 2012, he’s been immersed.

“It’s really cathartic,” he said. “When people have something that’s ailing them or something that’s weighing on them and they go and see a therapist or a shrink … essentially what they’re trying to do is off-load. They’re trying to share the load. As a songwriter … you can articulate those emotions, or you can take that which is within and get it out.”

“The caveat is it only works if you’re being honest,” he said. “It would be like if you were going to a shrink or a therapist: that only works if you’re telling the truth.”

The result of all this writing therapy is Seal’s first new music in five years: an album about love, heartbreak and healing.

Tall, slim and nattily dressed down to his blue suede boots, the 52-year-old said he didn’t set out to write about love, he just tried to be truthful.

“If you’re being in any way disingenuous, then it doesn’t matter if that thing comes out and it’s successful commercially. You’re forever tethered to that thing and you don’t gain release,” he said. “And I think the whole point of being a songwriter is to gain release through those things you write.”

So the new album has songs with titles such as “The Big Love Has Died” and lyrics like: “Breaking up is harder when you have a higher price to pay/ Now she takes a lover so that she can hide the pain.” A reference, maybe, to Klum’s relationship with her bodyguard after she and Seal split?

Seal and Klum were married for seven years before their divorce was finalized in 2014. They had three children together, and Seal adopted Klum’s daughter from a previous relationship. The children are now 11, 10, 9 and 4.

“Over the past few years, Seal has been through the tumble dryer of love,” said producer Trevor Horn, who first worked with the singer on his 1991 debut. “He gets sad on the record. You can hear him being sad, but you can’t hear him being bitter.”

Seal wanted to call the new album “Seal.” But he said the record company was worried that fans would confuse it with his first, second and fourth albums, also called “Seal.” So they agreed to call the new album “Seal 7.”

“Now people are calling it ‘7,’ much to my annoyance,” said Seal, whose birth name is Henry Samuel. “People think it’s this mystical reason why it’s called ‘7.’ It’s not. It’s just the seventh studio album.”

He’s halfway through making a follow-up, saying he finds songwriting to be a “source of light.” It’s not about making hits, he said, but making connections — first with his own feelings, then with his listeners.

Knowing his music has touched people means more than Grammy Awards and No. 1 hits, he said.

“Honestly, without trying to sound funny, that feeling is the fullest feeling you can experience,” he said. “And even if it’s just one person. To know that you actually, on a humanitarian level, that you actually affected somebody, somebody that was not having an easy time. And to know that you affected them, in some way you helped them get through something, that is the most validating feeling ever. … It’s at the very core of who we are as a race. It’s what we’re here for: to be able to affect each other in that way.”