Meet Sam Smith, the Next Big U.K. Pop Import

Slate's Culture Blog
March 29 2014 9:16 AM

Here’s What You Need to Know About Sam Smith

Sam Smith
Meet Sam Smith, the next big pop import out of the U.K.

Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

For the second time in less than two years, Louis C.K. will host Saturday Night Live this weekend. And while most viewers will no doubt be tuning in to see whatever absurd sketches he’s cooked up, they should pay equal attention to the program’s musical guest: Sam Smith.

For Smith, a singer-songwriter out of the U.K., it’s far from his first big break, though it is one of his first on this side of the pond. In December, the Brit Awards named him the Critics’ Choice, an honor given each year to a new artist with the best chance for international success. The next month, Smith won the coveted top spot in the BBC Sound of 2014 poll. But even prior to those accolades, Smith spent the bulk of last year recording his upcoming debut album In the Lonely Hour with Eg White and Fraser T, two songwriters whose résumés include Adele—one vocalist to whom Smith frequently draws comparisons.

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Though he’s been singing professionally for nearly a decade, Smith didn’t experience a breakthrough until the end of 2012, when he met Disclosure. Prominently featured on “Latch,” the lead single from the British house revivalists’ debut album Settle, his soft-as-velvet falsetto earned him widespread notice in England and among some dance music fans in the United States.

Another standout appearance on DJ Naughty Boy’s lush “La La La” quickly followed, and the song became one of the biggest singles of the year in the U.K. On YouTube, its video has attracted more than 275 million views.

Now that he’s trying to make it big by striking out on his own, Smith will likely perform two different songs on SNL. Money on My Mind,” In the Lonely Hour’s first single, sees the singer refusing to compromise his desire to create heartfelt music at the behest of a money-grubbing industry, declaring “I do it for the love” in a tone you could drink like chamomile.

It’s brand new single “Stay With Me,” though, that best encapsulates the soulful nature of Smith’s music. In it, he describes the devastating unfulfillment that can linger the night after a one-night stand, blending his powerhouse vocals together with the London-based Enchorus gospel choir for a song so breathtaking, it deserves those Adele comparisons.

Dee Lockett is Slate's editorial assistant for culture.

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