Play It Again, Sam
A lot of gay boys believe they’ve got a big black power diva somewhere inside. Brit star Sam Smith actually does! Marc Andrews reports.
MOVE ASIDE RIHANNA, Katy Perry and Iggy Azalea, there’s a new pop tart on the scene. Welcome to the top of the pop queue Britster Sam Smith who declares, “I don’t want to have a genre.” The only genre he has is that everything he does is pop and it’s as catchy as an STI after a long party weekend!
Sam first sprung into musical consciousness when his distinctive vocals were attached to band-of-the-moment Disclosure’s Latch and also on Naughty Boy’s La La La. From that stepping stone to stardom he won 2013’s Brit’s Critics Choice Award.
The 22-year-old vocalist made good on that award when his debut single, the brain-tugging Money On My Mind hit #1 in the UK. His second single, Stay With Me, shot him to the top ten in Australia off the back of an extensive tour that gave audiences the chance to hear his gorgeous, almost gospel-tinged tones, live.
Now he’s released his debut album and if you want to hear more of what Sam’s made of, dive right into In The Lonely Hour, which also includes his earlier guest hits with Disclosure and Naughty Boy. Sam is almost a male version of Adele with a bit of Amy Winehouse grittiness tossed into the mix. Much like Adele’s sophomore album was her huge breakthrough, and basically documented a big breakup in her life, so too In The Lonely Hour is about heartache and waiting for someone “to bring me in from the cold” as Sam croons on Leave Your Lover.
“People are saying, ‘Oh but it’s too sad’, but that’s what it’s about,” Sam explains matterof-factly. “I was sad and I wrote about being sad. Hopefully I’ll be happier soon and I’ll write about that.” It might be sad, but it’s also beautifully melancholy and it’s likely that Sam is going to reap the rewards at next year’s Grammys and other awards fests. In The Lonely Hour is also likely to become many people’s favourite go-to album when they need a good
I keep giving myself to guys who are never going to love me back.
non-gender specific album to feel special about. “Leave him for me” Sam sings on his current single, Leave Your Lover, which led to speculation about his sexuality.
On the record, Sam has always been coy about which way he swings but in the video for Leave Your Lover he plays out a love triangle with “it girl” model Daisy Lowe and a sexy man and it is obvious in the clip that Sam is boldly making a play for Daisy’s boyfriend. Daisy and Sam have been BFFs for some time and are often spotted at London’s hotspots holding hands and enjoying the nightlife together, even writing gooey messages about their love for each other on their Twitter accounts. Yet it’s clear that this is very much a platonic friendship, with Daisy still considered one of the most eligible single women in Europe and Sam, well, as her gifted male buddy.
He finally came clean, as it were, in an interview that came out after his album. “In The Lonely Hour is about a guy that I fell in love with last year and he didn’t love me back,” he revealed. “I think I’m over it now, but I was in a very dark place. I kept feeling lonely in the fact that I hadn’t felt love before. I’ve felt the bad things. And what’s a more powerful emotion: pain or happiness?
“I feel like I signed off this part of my life where I keep giving myself to guys who are never going to love me back,” he added. “It’s all there now, and I can move on and hopefully find a guy who can love me the way I love him.”
But don’t think Sam’s at home feeling sorry for himself. Oh no. “I am happy,” Sam insists. “The album is not a sad album, it’s an empowering album. This album is supposed to be the soundtrack to those quiet moments in life. I always say Disclosure’s record is what you listen to when you go out clubbing, and my record is what you listen to on the walk home, whether it’s that night, or the morning after.”
As to who he wants to ultimately emulate, Whitney Houston has some big shoes to fill but Sam looks like he might manage. “I was brought up in a house full of girls! So power divas are my true gods. I love Chaka Khan and Whitney Houston and all the big girls,” he splutters. “Aretha, Dionne Warwick, and I adore Stevie Wonder and Prince and anyone with soul. I guess you could say my family listens to black music mostly and I would like to think that’s where I got my voice. On the inside, I’m this warbling soul singer from the ’60s. The one person, however, who has inspired me so much is Beyoncé, because her determination and hard work are inspiring for someone like me, who wants to achieve his dreams. She’s got a real energy and her voice is amazing.”
Do we finally have the male Beyoncé? Time, and perhaps a few more prying questions, will reveal all.