- JAN 27, 2023
- 13 Songs
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About Sam Smith
It’s hard to think of many artists in 21st-century pop who could match the vulnerability of Sam Smith. “I’ve never shied away from telling the truth in my music,” the singer told Apple Music in 2020. “Music is literally my best friend; it’s a release, a form of diary and therapy.”
Born in London in 1992 and raised in Cambridge, Smith first began gaining significant traction in 2012 with a pair of dance hits—Disclosure’s “Latch,” and Naughty Boy’s “La La La” the following year. They revealed that elastic falsetto, but didn’t quite hint at the sadness that would define the outrageous success to come. That arrived with 2014’s Grammy-winning In the Midnight Hour, an exquisite meditation on unrequited love, and its followup, the heartbreak-inspired The Thrill of It All. This second album saw Smith—by then an Oscar winner for 2015’s Bond theme “Writing’s on the Wall”—open up about instant fame and embrace their status as a gay role model, against a backdrop of stirring, gospel-infused balladry. It has always been clear that Smith’s power lies as much in that voice as in an unwavering bravery to put their innermost feelings—loneliness, confusion, desperation, desire—on full public view.
By the run-up to album three, however, Smith was also ready to have a little more fun. The aching melancholy of love, loss, and yearning for someone to spend their days with was still present, but this time, it was all being mined for invigorating music to help dance the blues away. That third LP should have arrived in early 2020 in the form of To Die For, but, amid the global pandemic, it was delayed, reworked, and renamed with the more sensitive title Love Goes. The album, Smith said ahead of its release, allowed them to heal after their first true breakup. But it also heralded freedom. “I felt at one point that I was going to be trapped onstage wearing a suit and singing ballads for the rest of my life,” said Smith. “When I look back at Love Goes, it reminds of the courage it took. A lot of my life, probably because of a lot of internalized queerphobia, and queerphobia around me, I felt ashamed of myself and not being able to fully be myself through my music. Each time I make an album, I learn to like myself a little more. The more I make music, the closer to myself I feel.”
- London, England