In The Lonely Hour, the debut album from 22-year-old British singer/songwriter Sam Smith splashed onto the Billboard 200 this week, landing at #2 behind Lana Del Rey‘s Ultraviolence. As if this wasn’t a big enough feat for the burgeoning superstar, Sam Smith made U.S. pop music history. The album sold an astonishing 166,000 copies in its first week, which is more than any other début album by a UK male artist in the entire 23 year existence of Soundscan. Pretty spectacular, no? Sam is riding high right now, with multiple songs simultaneously (including Naughty Boy‘s “La La La“) on the Billboard Hot 100, including the album’s lead single, “Stay With Me,” which recently surpassed one million sales, landing it in the Hot 100 Top 10. Sam also continues to win over live audiences and will do so again this Fall when he plays to a sold out North American Tour, crisscrossing the country and playing iconic venues such as The Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, The Riviera Theater in Chicago and the Hammerstein Ballroom here in New York City. Way to go Sam!
I have to admit…watching Sam Smith’s rise to fame here in America has been…interesting. Had I been regularly blogging these past few months, would he have been one of my “Ones To Watch?” Would I have posted “Hot Video Alerts” for all of his singles? I always felt a little bit of pride when an artist I wrote about back in the day becomes MASSIVE later on down the line. Sure, there are those artists that I’ve plugged as “Ones To Watch” that wound up going nowhere but when an artist like Sam Smith comes along…you kind of want to be one of those, “I’ve been a fan since before he was big” fans. So much has happened with Sam Smith these past several months, it obviously doesn’t make sense to dwell too intently on the past…so I won’t. I will say that, in the span of time between my last blog post and this one…I have become a MASSIVE Sam Smith fan.
As one might imagine, my email inbox had become quite full during my hiatus. As I was organizing (AKA deleting) emails, I stumbled across a handful of barely read press releases hawking this little known UK singer/songwriter and some song called “Lay Me Down.” Now…in my defense…as a blogger, I receive a lot of inquiries and these inquiries didn’t stop when I stopped blogging. My motivation to read a press release or to listen to a song is usually determined by a compelling subject line or yes, even a high-res photo. Even with both of these, sometimes an email just gets buried. In Sam Smith’s case, I don’t know why I ignored all of those press releases.
I, like pretty much the rest of the world, became aware of Sam when he was featured on Disclosure‘s immensely popular “Latch.” Disclosure happened to be in New York City for a Central Park Summerstage show and brought Sam Smith with them. The next night, Sam played an intimate show at Mercury Lounge on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The crowd was filled with industry people, other artists (Maxwell was there, and Natalia Kills stood 2 feet in front of me), probably some Disclosure fans and fellow Anglophiles and music snobs like myself. While Smith came across as a bit shy and unsure of himself, his voice did just the opposite. Safe to say, he blew everyone in that little room away that August night.
Since then, Sam’s noteriety in America has been steadily on the rise (“Saturday Night Live” anyone?) but his down to earth demeanor and warm personality remain unchanged. Fans and critics alike seem to be fawning over Smith’s new record, and for good reason…it’s absolutely stunning. Entirely co-written by Smith, In The Lonely Hour features flawless production from the likes of Two Inch Punch, Eg White, Jimmy Napes, Steve Fitzmaurice, Mojam and Fraser T Smith. While the album is a bit heavy on the ballad side, was anyone really expecting something different? That’s Sam Smith’s sweet spot! Hello! That being said, mid-tempo numbers “Like I Can” and “Money On My Mind” offer a nice change of pace, while the Zane Lowe-produced/co-written Deluxe Album bonus cut “Restart” really gets things moving. According to TIME Magazine:
“In The Lonely Hour finds Smith changing course and doubling back to recognizably classic sounds: warm, simple melodies with structures and tones cribbed from gospel music, plus luxurious strings and guitar lines that complement his fluttering vocal turns… Smith understands that his voice is the key to unlocking these songs, and when it’s made the focal point he shines… Smith’s pain leaps from the speakers, familiar and undeniable.”
I’ve seen him four times since that intimate Mercury Lounge performance and it’s been absolutely amazing to witness him develop as a solo artist. He truly deserves all of the success that he has coming his way. Sam Smith is MTV’s “Artist To Watch” and VH1’s “You Oughta Know” artist for the month of June. Check out Tour Dates and watch videos for “Stay With Me,” “Leave Your Lover” and “Money On My Mind” below.
September 15 | Boston, MA | House of Blues
September 16 | Washington, DC | Echostage
September 18 | New York, NY | United Palace Theatre
September 19 | New York, NY | Hammerstein Ballroom
September 21 | Toronto, ONT | Kool Haus
September 22 | Chicago, IL | Riviera Theater
September 24 | Vancouver, BC | Orpheum Theatre
September 25 | Seattle, WA | Paramount Theater
September 26 | Portland, OR | Edgefield
September 28 | Los Angeles, CA | Fox Theatre
September 29 | Los Angeles, CA | The Greek Theatre
September 30 | Los Angeles, CA | The Greek Theatre
October 4 | Houston, TX | House of Blues
October 6 | Atlanta, GA | Tabernacle
October 7 | Nashville, TN | Ryman Auditorium
October 9 | Dallas, TX | House of Blues
UK Tour Dates:
23rd October | Glasgow | O2 ABC
24th October | Leeds | O2 Academy
25th October | Newcastle | O2 Academy
27th October | Birmingham | O2 Academy
28th October | Nottingham | Rock City
29th October | Manchester | Albert Hall
30th October | Manchester | Albert Hall
3rd November | Cambridge | Corn Exchange
4th November | Bristol | Colston Hall
6th November | London | Eventim Apollo Hammersmith
7th November | London | Eventim Apollo Hammersmith
Check out Sam Smith on the web: