Sam Smith: Is He Worth It?
This year’s Grammy awards left us with one name lingering on our lips: Sam Smith. Not only did Sam Smith win Best New Artist of the Year, but he took home first-place awards for Record of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Album, and Song of the Year for “Stay With Me”. Sam Smith won big time, and took home more awards than any other musician. He beat out top contenders like Iggy Azalea, Miley Cyrus, Coldplay, Hozier, and Ed Sheeran in various categories. Oh, and also, Sam Smith’s album In The Lonely Hour was nominated for Album of the Year. So…who is this guy? Hailing from the UK, London-born artist Sam Smith first gained recognition when he was featured on Disclosure’s top hit “Latch” in late 2012. In 2013, he released the Nirvana EP, which includes top hits like his original performance of “Latch” as a piano-acoustic track; the catchy “Money On My Mind” which is also featured on In The Lonely Hour, and “Together” featuring collaborations with Disclosure, Nile Rogers, and Jimmy Napes. According to Spotify, Sam Smith credits artists Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, and Chaka Khan as sources of musical and creative inspiration. In The Lonely Hour debuted in 2014 and has since claimed the attention of listeners worldwide.
When I first found out that Sam Smith won four Grammys against top artists in multiple categories, I was pretty overwhelmed and, dare I say it…. confused. How could this random dude from London sweep the Grammy competition as a new artist? Was his album really that good? How is this guy different? Although skeptical at first, I really do believe Sam Smith deserves all four Grammys he won, and here’s why.
Record of the Year & Song of the Year (both for “Stay With Me”): There’s no denying that this track is solid gold. While “Shake It Off” certainly has a good message lyric-wise and indicates a new musical style for Taylor Swift compared to her country-pop ballads, “Stay With Me” is an emotional, complex track that showcases Sam Smith’s incredible range and a variety of musical instruments…REAL musical instruments. “Fancy”, “Chandelier”, and “All About That Bass” were all good in their own way: Iggy’s rap skills, Sia’s raw, powerful voice and unreal range, and Megan Trainor’s sassy and inspiring lyrics were all hard to ignore. I was disappointed that Hozier did not win the Song of the Year award for “Take Me To Church” considering the song’s powerful message and dark emotions, but I am convinced that “Stay With Me” is a display of sheer musical talent, from vocals to instruments, and makes each and every one of us experience something while we listen to it.
Best Pop Vocal Album: Looking at the list of nominees in the same category, it’s easy to see why Sam Smith won this one. Coldplay’s Ghost Story was nothing short of a disappointment compared to their previous albums; Miley Cyrus’ Bangerz was…well, what it was; Ariana Grande’s My Everything featured lots of songs that sounded the same; Katy Perry’s Prism was somewhat past its prime with a few hidden gems here and there; and Ed Sheeran’s X, although the top competitor in this category, seemed too similar to his older stuff and mainly showcased his instrumental side but lacked variety in terms of vocals. In The Lonely Hour not only showcases Sam Smith’s pure vocal talents, but also re-introduced us to a pure, smooth fusion of pop and R&B that we’ve been missing.
Best New Artist of the Year: I wanted nothing more than for HAIM to win this category, but in hindsight I can see why Sam Smith deserves it. As a stand-alone artist, Sam Smith’s vocals are basically unreal. His talent is truly unique, and his transformative voice can move anyone who listens. HAIM rocks, but it takes all three of them to do big things. While Iggy Azalea’s rap skills are unparalleled, her range and variety are nowhere near that of Sam Smith’s. Bastille’s music is good, but it’s nothing new or fresh. Brandy Clark has a great voice, but does not have nearly the strong emotional hold on listeners as Sam Smith does.
…You can agree to disagree, but I’m with the Grammy-givers on this one. Although my skepticism got the best of me at first, I’m now fully convinced that Sam Smith is well deserving of all four Grammys he received. Take a listen to In The Lonely Hour, and you just might think so, too.