Sam Smith: Musician on the Rise

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“I want to thank the man who this record is about, who I fell in love with last year. Thank you so much for breaking my heart, because you got me four Grammys.”

– Sam Smith (via The Daily Beast)

Sam Smith is a 22-year-old British musician who earned his first number one single with the song “La La La” in May 2013. Since then, the musician has released an album, toured the world, and won four Grammy’s. Smith came out as gay in May 2014, following the release of his debut album In the Lonely Hour, which was the third best selling album of 2014 and won the 2015 Grammy for best pop vocal album. He was the first openly gay male to win the award.

In the Lonely Hour, which has achieved much critical and commercial success, was inspired by Smith’s past relationship with model and actor Jonathan Zeizel. While many view Smith’s music as a positive representation of queer relationships, many question the decisive exclusion of gendered pronouns within his songs. Pronouns like “he” and “his” are nearly entirely absent from is his work, leading some popular queer culture blogs and publications to criticize his work. In an interview, Smith stated that he if first and foremost a singer and that his sexuality should not define his identity as an artist.

“Sometimes people forget to even ask me about my songs, and the things I’m actually doing because they ask me about my sexuality – it shouldn’t be a talking point,” Smith said to Access Hollywood.

Many artists, who some deem as “icons” within queer culture such as Lady Gaga, are singing praises for Smith. Some point to the fact that many of his songs help eradicate stereotypes surrounding queer hook up culture, that have been perpetuated by the mass media. Films such as William Friedkin’s Cruising, which depicts gay underground sex culture in the 1970’s and 80’s, brought queer culture to the mainstream in a negative light. For many, films such like Cruising – which was directed by a straight man created a negative, amplified, and unrealistic image of queer culture. Simply by writing and performing hit songs that happen to be about Smith’s past relationship, he brings realistic gay relationships onto a mainstream scale.

“It was only until I started to be myself that the music started to flow and people started to listen.”

– Sam Smith (via The Daily Beast)

Though Smith’s songs don’t always depict positive relationships, in fact, one of his biggest hits, “I’m Not the Only One,” is about getting cheated on by his boyfriend. Yet these songs depict love, loss, and heartbreak — bringing realism to relationships that have been, and still are, stigmatized due to stereotypes.

Sam Smith is still a new artist, and nobody knows how his music will affect, if at all, mainstream ideas about queer culture. But having an astoundingly popular singer-songwriter, who also happens to be a gay man, is certainly a positive step forward.

2 thoughts on “Sam Smith: Musician on the Rise

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