Gloria

Gloria

Sam Smith’s fourth album, Gloria, opens with the kind of music we’ve come to expect from the British singer-songwriter: “Love Me More” is a gospel-inflected ballad celebrating the power of self-acceptance. But after that, Smith goes off script. “I wanted it to be a patchwork of pop, it’s something that I was really passionate about,” they tell Apple Music. “I want to be flipping from genre to genre to genre to genre.” Gloria, then, brings us sensual R&B, dazzling dance floor moments (“Lose You” is perhaps Smith’s best sad banger yet), twisting hyperpop, a dancehall-indebted earworm, and even choral music, with embraces of sex, the power of community, and queer joy and history along the way. “My aim with this record was to make sure there is not one song on this album that I don't like,” adds Smith. “I've put so much into this record in terms of the production and the time. I became obsessed. I lived inside the music. I've never worked that hard before.” There’s a confidence present that most artists reach a few albums deep, but it’s more than just the gains of experience you can hear here. Made between Suffolk, LA, and Jamaica, Gloria is an album of rebellion, liberation, and letting go of the past, as one of modern pop’s biggest voices unveils their most assured music—and self—yet. “I don’t want to sound cheesy, but Gloria for me is like when a butterfly leaves a cocoon,” says Smith. “That’s what I wanted this record to feel like all the way through. I wanted there to be strength within every single song. I feel like my true artist self has arrived in a way.” Read on as Smith delves deep into every track on Gloria. “Love Me More” “I knew I wanted to write a song that said how I was feeling. I find the whole self-love thing quite cringey. Self-love sometimes feels like a destination; with self-acceptance, every day I have to try and accept myself and show myself love. That's what I was trying to put across in this song. I started this album like my old music. ‘Love Me More’ is the last opportunity I was giving my older fans to come into this next stage with me. This is a song written for my fans, and every song after it is written for me.” “No God” “This comes from a personal story about someone in my life who I’ve lost to drastic opinions. But as me, [songwriters and producers] Jimmy [Napes] and Stargate were writing it, it became a rhetoric on a certain type of person with a god complex. It’s about the ignoring of a human being and allowing someone’s drastic politics to get in the way of caring for someone else. The magic of this song came from the production: the live playing, the backing vocals. We just picked away at it until it sounded perfect. To me, it sounds super expensive.” “Hurting Interlude” “I found this amazing piece: a news anchor speaking at the first-ever Gay Pride in New York. What he says in this interlude broke my heart and took me back to ‘Lose You,’ a song written about a lesbian friend who had her first queer relationship with a woman. Someone's first heartbreak as a queer person can be very intense because of what we do go through when it comes to love. I felt like it was the perfect quote before ‘Lose You.’” “Lose You” “As a queer community, we love our sad dance songs. With this album, you could dedicate every song to a pop diva of mine. ‘Love Me More’ would be Whitney, ‘No God’ would be Brandy, and ‘Lose You’ would be Robyn or George Michael. I wrote this song with some of the most amazing pop writers and it felt like a mastering of a beautifully formed pop song. The production wasn’t taking me to Berlin, though, and I needed it to take me to a German gay club. The little things we did towards the end of this song really took it there—it gives me this really Euro, unashamed, gay, chic feel. It's drama, drama, drama.” “Perfect” (feat. Jessie Reyez) “This is where sex starts to come into the record. I feel like I’ve been a bit desexualized during my career, and I was very young when I started. Being 20 years old and moving onstage in the way I would in a gay bar was petrifying. Jessie really taught me to be brave: I would say things to her in the studio and she wouldn’t laugh or feel uncomfortable. The whole concept of the song is saying, ‘I’m a hot mess,’ and feeling yourself in a really imperfect way. This song is the Rihanna moment—we worked with Stargate on it, who worked on Rated R, one of my favourite Rihanna records. Stargate got hold of Nuno Bettencourt, who does guitar solos on Rated R, and he just ripped all over the song—I love it so much.” “Unholy” [with Kim Petras] “We were in Jamaica and [producer] Omer Fedi was fucking around on the guitar and playing this scale, which I started singing to. Everyone in the room was really confused; they didn’t know if they liked it or not. I had someone on my mind who was pissing me off and I just had to get it out. After we got back, everyone liked the song but said, ‘This is not on brand.’ But it kept prodding at me. I said everything I needed to in the first verse, and that’s when Kim came into the picture. There were about eight guys in the studio who were trying to push Kim’s verse in one direction. We spent all day doing it that way, but then something in my gut said, ‘This is shit.’ There’s a certain humour that only a queer person can understand because we’ve been through it and we live it. And that’s what the verse needed. We needed to tease the man, we needed to make him a ‘Balenciaga daddy.’ This is the most powerful part of the album and it's the most powerful piece of music I've ever been a part of. It’s like an exorcism.” “How to Cry” “This is about the same person ‘Unholy’ is about. I wanted that breath, but I also only wanted one of these moments, because this isn’t the record for super organic, stripped music. In ‘Unholy’ I’m laughing and taking the piss. But at the heart of that emotion is a very sad story. It’s also about a relationship I was in, and about how I think being an emotional person is such a strong characteristic. I really do believe it’s a superpower. So it’s a love letter to me.” “Six Shots” “It’s a paragraph change—after ‘How to Cry,’ this is the pre-drinks to a night. But they’re intense pre-drinks, because we start having sex. This is the first proper sex song I wrote—I just felt really freed by it. At the time, I was insanely single and that’s where the lyric ‘There’s no loving me’ comes from. I was so single that I was almost taken. I wasn’t open to love.” “Gimme” (feat. Koffee and Jessie Reyez) “I’m obsessed with this song—it’s possibly my favourite on the album. It’s the most sexually intense lyrics I’ve ever written, and the verse lyric is actually filthy! The song is basically about wanting the dick so much you can cry. I love dancehall music and have tried many times to write songs that have a dancehall feel. I needed to be in Jamaica to do it in a way where it felt authentic, and I’m so proud that ‘Gimme’ did that. Like a lot of the record, this song is about sharing the moment—I didn’t want to be in the song too much.” “Dorothy’s Interlude” “The opening quote is Divine, which is just pure sass and fabulousness. Next is Judy Garland—there are so many queer connotations with Judy, namely the famous myth that when she died, everyone congregated in New York at Stonewall and the riots started the same night. Then after that you’ve got Sylvia Rivera. It’s quite a harrowing speech at Gay Pride in New York, talking about all of the awful things that are happening in the homeless hospitals to trans people, and her own community of gay men were booing her onstage. After that it goes into RuPaul saying one of the most incredible sayings we have out there. This interlude goes through the ages.” “I’m Not Here to Make Friends” “This song was made with Calvin Harris, Stargate, me, and Jessie Reyez. It was a joy to make. I went on a date the night before and I was just so sick of going on dates where people treated me like a friend or just wanted to meet me because I’m Sam Smith. Even though the song has nothing to do with it, the song title is also an attitude and spirit on the record that I have: I’m done trying to please people now.” “Gloria” “The sound of this song is one of the most beautiful sounds I've ever created. And the reason I think it’s one of my favourite songs is that I’m not on it. [Producer] David Odlum helped convince me to actually sing on this song. At the beginning of my career, I remember everyone telling me I was a good singer, but no one ever really gave me credit for my songwriting. And what I love about this song is it's not about me, it's about something I wrote. This song is about opening your arms to the sky and singing your song as loud as you can. And I really think that my younger self needed it. I went with this idea of, I want this to be an album for a younger me that will give me joy and hope. The lyric is incredibly deep, but it's also playable like a lullaby.” “Who We Love” [with Ed Sheeran] “Ed sent me this song, and I was fearful to begin with because I don’t usually take songs and make them mine. Ed and I have been friends for a long time. I’m not interested in doing an Ed collab that sounds like a hit—I wanted it to mean something. And when I heard this, I felt truly touched. I felt like it was a queer ballad anthem written from a friend. There was something so poignant and beautiful about it. Ed has personally guided me through tough times and been a friend in a very cold industry. I wanted everything about this song to feel warm.”

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