With the recently released highly anticipated last track, ‘Unholy’, featuring Kim Petras, we’re using this moment in time to take a reflective look back at the previous discography of UK pop-soul artist Sam Smith.
2012 brings us Sam’s initial prominence as the featured artist on electronic duo Disclosure’s track ‘Latch,’ which promptly hit position 11 on the UK Singles rankings. Shortly after, another feature follows, this time in the form of Naughty Boy’s ‘La La La.’ While these don’t give us a massive taste of Smith’s writing talent per se due to the number of writers, with them come awards and a springboard for a potentially huge career launch.
In the Lonely Hour (2014)
In 2014, we received Smith’s debut album, In The Lonely Hour. Described as an ode to ‘unrequited love’ based on Smith’s personal romantic experiences, it’s a heart breaking yet soulful and haunting first album.
The first single, ‘Lay Me Down’, was received favourably and showcased Smith’s vocal range and writing talent. The second, ‘Stay With Me has become a classic, and ‘Not the Only One is a strong relatable single for those who have found themselves in romantic situations that have left them yearning for exclusivity and painstakingly extracted answers. Track 7, ‘Like I Can’, is slightly more upbeat in tone and concept, providing a reflection of Smith realising their worth concerning romance while expressing how much they know their love is worth in the repeated title lyric in the chorus.
It’s the album that sees Sam soaring to widespread recognition in the industry outside their past collaborative works, reaching UK #1 on the charts and number #2 on the international Billboard 200 – a stellar start for any artist. While some critics referred to it as being too simple thematically, the statistics indicate otherwise in this case. The whole album proves to be a catchy, poppy release that strikes sharply against Smith’s deep vocal range.
The Thrill of it All (2017)
Arguably their best work, their second album was released in late September 2017. Starring several collaborations, including Adam Lambert, Clean Bandit and previously acknowledged Naughty Boy, it’s a smashing comeback that garners international success almost immediately. It’s the first work of Smith’s to reach number 1 in the US and the UK, and a worldwide tour was announced shortly afterwards. With the original version at 10 tracks and the bonus at 15, it’s also very well-loaded with tunes.
TTOIA also proves to be far more of an in-depth and sophisticated piece, with Smith tackling far more than just interpersonal relationships in the lyrics.
Take the promotional single ‘Pray’ featuring rapper Logic on the second version, for example. Placed as the final track, Smith tackles their feelings about their past choices through the lens of religious references and paradoxical comparisons, referring to themselves as ‘a saint and a sinner.’ It’s reflective and meaningful, an ode to how one may feel in their more vulnerable moments. Don’t get us wrong – the romantically-centred tracks are brilliant too. They’re deeper, more powerful and just as potent – ‘Baby, You Make Me Crazy,’ and ‘One Last Song’ are two such songs. With these, it feels like Smith is going back to their roots symbolically and exploring what we already know they’re great at here – but they come across this time around as more developed, with an extra hint of touching sincerity.
Love Goes (2020)
The first hints at more work came during Smith’s appearance on the Zach Sang Show, with excitement palpable in the podcast as they teased their upcoming record, sending fans into a stir. Initially described as having fewer ballad-style pieces and more poppy tracks, speculation was rife. Considering this was announced off the back of Smith dropping ‘Dancing With A Stranger’ with hit artist Normani, the stage was set when Love Goes premiered to streaming services on 30th October 2020, having undergone many changes due to the ongoing COVID pandemic.
Swapping retro-soul for mistier, pop-facing electronics, Smith brings a glacial, relaxing pace in this ode to breakups, once again shining a light on what could easily be considered a universally relatable topic. Bouncing between subject matters of finding yourself, the traditionally explored romance, and celebrating personal progress, it’s an explorative album in relation to genre, but in this case, not so much the overarching themes.
Opening with ‘Young’, Sam explores the idea of being kinder to themselves due to age, another very relatable topic. Their words reflect the choices they could make within their life, expressing what feels like sorrow at how these could inflict the judgements of others. With this and many of the album’s other tracks, Smith places themselves on the same level as their fans, using common experiences to create a heartfelt track. Another highlight is the following track, ‘Diamonds,’ which is almost a catharsis to anyone going through heartbreak due to its intensive vocal symbolism.
Love Goes also scored Smith their first GLAAD award in the ‘Outstanding Media’ category in April 2021.
Recently / other collabs
Since Love Goes, Smith has only released a few tracks, but we hope for more soon.
First came the cover of Dear Evan Hansen’s ‘You Will be Found’ with Summer Walker, which plays in the film’s ending credits, and most recently, ‘Unholy.’ Snippets of the song blew up on Tiktok before release, and the internet went wild for the slightly provocative and wildly entertaining lyrics. Topping the charts in multiple countries, it’s been praised by some as the hottest song ever created by Smith, both because of the social media hype and the surprising complement between Smith’s sobering vocals alongside Petras’ dance-pop style.
One thing to say is that while we don’t know what’s coming next, we’re sure that it will take Smith to fresh heights, and we are praying that fresh thrill comes to platforms one day soon.