Get Sam Smith on your mind, and fast.
Back in 2012, Sam Smith sang the following on Disclosure’s “Latch“: “Now I’ve got you in my space/ I won’t let go of you/ Got you shackled in my embrace/ I’m latching onto you.” As we enter 2014, his words seem more prophetic than ever — the world is ready for his embrace.
Following a year of building buzz, gaining followers, and dropping his debut EP, Nirvana, the British soul-pop crooner opened the new year already on top — literally. The BBC awarded him the No. 1 slot on their coveted Sound Of 2014 list.
But mind-bendingly, that’s not all. Sam’s already picked up a 2014 BRIT Award for Critic’s Choice, and the ceremony hasn’t even aired yet. Don’t worry, fans of suspense; boyfriend’s still got that Single Of The Year nomination for his featured vocals on Naughty Boy’s “La La La” up in the air, so you’ll have plenty to stress over come Feb. 19.
With Sam’s first studio album, In The Lonely Hour, officially slated for release on May 26, the 21-year-old seems poised to take 2014 by storm.
Despite how historically difficult it has been for British artists like Oasis or Adele to translate to the American mainstream (obvious sarcasm is obvious), we have a pretty good feeling about our boy, Sam. Did we say “good feeling about”? We actually meant “out-of-control obsession.” Zero shame in admitting that, and here’s why.
1.) THE VOICE
Vocally, Sam can reach from the raw, unrelenting power of Adele’s “Set Fire To The Rain” belts to the sweet falsetto honey Robin Thicke displays in “Lost Without You.” Sometimes, Sam even whips out both in the same performance, as he does in this live cover of Ry X’s “Berlin” for BBC Radio 1’s “Live Lounge.”
Call him a show off, sure, but don’t pretend you’re mad about it for one second.
2.) THE VERSATILITY
If you only knew Sam from his featured vocals on Disclosure’s “Latch,” you might think that he was strictly a synth-pop singer in the same vein as Blood Orange or St. Lucia. But as it turns out, this New New Romantic’s Bronski Beat-meets-Culture Club sound is but one of the many singing styles he keeps under his belt.
Truth be told, Sam’s natural inclinations toward musical genre fall more squarely in the soul category. The fact that he’s able to drift between the styles so seamlessly is just a testament to his potential as an artist.
3.) THE VIDEO
Despite the fact that Sam Smith’s been pretty #GameSetMatch on the vocals front for nearly a year now, he only made his music video debut on Jan. 12 of this year.
The clip for “Money On My Mind,” one of our recent Must-Hear Pop Songs Of The Week, basically serves as proof that along with the chops and the stage presence, he’s got charisma to hold a video’s focus.
Though Sam might not have money on his mind, but that’s OK. If the video’s any indication, he’ll be able to pay a whole team of people to worry about his finances soon enough.
+ Watch Sam Smith’s “Money On My Mind” video.
4.) HE WROTE “LA LA LA” IN 10 MINUTES
We repeat: According to this video interview with VEVO DSCVR, Sam Smith wrote “La La La” in 10 minutes. We don’t really feel the need to add anything else to that, except the sound of our jaws duh-ropping to the floor. #clunk
5.) THE COMING POP LANDSCAPE
As 2013 dwindled to a close, the wise prophet Idolator warned: This new year will most likely mark a musical shift away from beat-dropping EDM club-bangers and toward musically driven pop balladry.
Heralded by Beyonce on her surprise self-titled 2013 LP, artists like Adele, Frank Ocean, and Sia will surely pick up where she left off once their discs drop in 2014. But, the established icons aren’t alone, as newcomers like Jhene Aiko, Lea Michele, and John Newman — another of our British soul-pop obsessions — are all prime examples of this marked change as well.
All of this is to say that Sam Smith is exactly the right kind of artist for this precise moment in pop music. Not that he wouldn’t be a welcome addition circa the four-on-the-floor revival a few years back, but his fortuitous, planetary alignment-esque arrival on the scene has really got us thinking. Will Sam Smith have as stellar a 2014 as we hope? We’ll just have to wait and see.
Photo credit: Capitol, Getty Images, Virgin