His music is honest, sentimental and comes straight from the heart. It’s hard not to be swayed by his songs. In his interviews, Sam Smith doesn’t hide the fact that they are mostly autobiographical, but what are his melancholic tearjerkers actually about?
This is Sam Smith
Audience from far and wide were introduced to Sam Smith in 2012 on Discolosure’s hit song Latch. Shortly after, he collaborated with Naughty Boy on a track called La La La. His debut album In The Lonely Hour, which came out the following year, was very well received. It became the second best selling album of 2014 in the UK and the United States.
Because of the enormous success of his first album, the bar was raised high for his following one. Last November, The Thrill Of It All finally came out. It shot to the top of the charts in the US, Canada, UK, The Netherlands, Belgium, and New Zealand.
Ever since, Sam Smith has worked with the likes of John Legend (Lay Me Down), Mary J. Blige (Stay With Me), A$AP Rocky (I’m Not The Only One), and recently, Logic (Pray).
Despite all the stardust, Sam Smith’s lyrics often go back to his origins. Sam was born and raised in the English place Bisford’s Stortford. He went to a Catholic primary school and came out of the closet at the age of 10. His religion and sexual orientation are topics frequently found in the lyrics of his songs. Despite his debut album almost entirely revolving around the unrequited love for a friend, he shared him being a homosexual with the press just a while ago in 2014. He didn’t like being labeled the ‘gay singer’ at the beginning of his career. In an interview he explained:
“I wanted to be seen as a singer first, before people spoke about my private life.”
After the huge success of his first album, he took a different stand:
“Now it’s changed – I’ve changed. I realise that maybe I don’t mind that title”.
In October 2017, he revealed that he feels both male and female.
What more can we discover about Sam Smith through his lyrics?
5. Stay With Me (In The Lonely Hour, 2014)
In Sam’s biggest hit to date, Stay With Me, he revealed a lot about his love life.
Guess it’s true, I’m not good at a one-night stand
But I still need love cause I’m just a man
These nights never seem to go to plan
I don’t want you to leave, will you hold my hand?
One-night stands are not for Sam, he expects more than that from his conquests. In the chorus, he secretly hopes his lover is also seeking for a long time commitment.
Oh won’t you stay with me?
Cause you’re all I need
This ain’t love, it’s clear to see
But darling, stay with me
And then the moment comes: his Mister Right (Now) goes away and leaves him behind.
Why am I so emotional?
No it’s not a good look, gain some self control
And deep down I know this never works
But you can lay with me so it doesn’t hurt
Stay With Me – Sam Smith
In an interview with NME, he elaborates on this moment:
“You are just like: ‘I wish, I wish’. You don’t even love them, you don’t really fancy them that much, it’s just nice to have someone in the bed next to you.”
However painful the situation might have been for Sam, it can’t be denied that it’s brought on some positive things. In 2015, the song won Song of the Year and Record of the Year at the Grammy’s. He also took a Grammy home for Best New Artist and Best Pop Vocal Album for In The Lonely Hour.
When receiving the award, he ‘had’ to give a shout out to his biggest inspiration – his ex. He kindly thanked him for the success he had given him. Talk about karma!
4. Writing’s On The Wall (Soundtrack ‘Spectre’, 2015)
After Adele’s big success with Skyfall, Sam Smith was chosen to make the soundtrack for the new James Bond film, Spectre, in 2015. Critics had mixed feelings about the single, but its success in the charts speaks volumes. The single immediately took the number one spot on the UK charts, unprecedented for a Bond soundtrack.
Sam wrote the epic theme song with his writing buddy, Jimmy Napes, in just 20 minutes! Writing’s On The Wall is one of the few songs in his repertoire that is not autobiographical; Sam jumped into the shoes of 007 for this song:
“I wanted a touch of vulnerability from Bond, where you see into his heart a little bit.”
And he succeeded in doing that, if you ask me.
I’ve been here before
But always hit the floor
I’ve spent a lifetime runnin’
And I always get away
But with you I’m feeling something
That makes me want to stay
I see where Sam is going… A suburban life isn’t on the horizon for a secret agent like James Bond. But he feels something now he didn’t feel before.
If I risk it all
Could you break my fall?
Feeling ready to give in to love, Bond wonders if his beau will guide him into the unknown.
How do I live? How do I breathe?
When you’re not here I’m suffocating
I wanna feel love run through my blood
Tell me is this where I give it all up?
For you I have to risk it all
Cause the writing’s on the wall
Writing’s On The Wall – Sam Smith
The saying ‘Writing On The Wall’ represents two things here. On the one hand, it’s the approaching doom in the film’s plot. On the other, it conveys the doubt James Bond has about the risk of loving someone. Will it be worthwhile? Does love conquer all, even the ladies’ man 007?
Luck will need to be on your side, if you want to hear Sam sing Writing’s On The Wall during one of his concerts. The Bond song usually doesn’t make the setlist, and after seeing the interview on the Graham Norton show, you should know why. Just before performing the soundtrack, Sam revealed how hard it is for him to sing the song:
“It’s horrible to sing. I almost regret – no, I don’t regret it… It’s just so high. I have to grab my balls, it’s awful.”
3. Lay Me Down (In The Lonely Hour, 2014)
During his performance in Brixton, Sam Smith told the public that he wrote Lay Me Down right after deleting all the chats with a guy on WhatsApp. The reason? He’d ignored Sam.
The song, unlike what you may think after listening to the lyrics and watching the video clip(you can find it at the bottom of this article), is about the end of a fling. At the beginning of the video, we see Sam attending a funeral in a church. The lyrics portray the feeling you get when someone you care a lot about, disappears from your life.
Yes I do, I believe
That one day I will be where I was
Right there, right next to you
And it’s hard, the days just seem so dark
The moon, the stars are nothing without you
In the next scene, the gloomy day changes into a completely opposite picture; we see Sam say yes to his one and only at the altar. There are many conflicting theories about the meaning of these contradictory themes. It could be a flashback to better times. But when you read the next passage you can also be made to believe that he wants to follow his lover to the afterlife.
Can I lay by your side, next to you?
And make sure you’re alright
I’ll take care of you
I don’t want to be here if I can’t be with you tonight
Lay me down tonight, lay me by your side
Lay me down tonight, lay me by your side
Can I lay by your side, next to you
Lay Me Down – Sam Smith
At the end of the video, Sam has been left at an empty church. What do you think he is trying to say with this open ending? Not only is Sam making us reflect with this song, but he is also making a statement. By the time the song came out, same-sex marriages weren’t only officially legalized for a year in the UK, but the location of the ceremony is also controversial. In an interview, he says:
“Obviously gay marriage isn’t legal in churches, and we’re doing a gay marriage today, in the church.”
2. HIM (The Thrill Of It All, 2017)
Sam brought out HIM, another song with homosexuality as the main theme. Sam Smith has the good fortune of having parents who accepted and always supported him for who he is, so this song is not about him. Instead, he wrote it for the LBGT community.
Holy Father, we need to talk
I have a secret that I can’t keep
I’m not the boy that you thought you wanted
Please don’t get angry, have faith in me
When reading this passage, you may expect the lead character to be talking with God. Nothing could be further from the truth. The song does contain religious referrals, but Sam indicated in an interview with NME that HIM tells the story of a fictional boy from Mississippi who reveals to his father that he is gay.
Don’t you try and tell me that God doesn’t care for us
It is him I love, it is him I love
Although he vaguely expects how his father will react, he has the faith that God also cares about homosexuals.
I walk the streets of Mississippi
I hold my lover by the hand
I feel you staring when he is with me
How can I make you understand?
Mississippi is one of the most homophobic states of the United States. Many Mississippians find it shocking to see two men walk hand in hand.
Holy Father, judge my sins
I’m not afraid of what they will bring
I’m not the boy that you thought you wanted
I love him
HIM – Sam Smith
His father may judge his sins, i.e. his sexual orientation, but it is what it is; the love he has for his significant other is a fact.
1. Pray (The Thrill Of It All, 2017)
Sam visited Mosul, a city in the north of Iraq, with War child during the making of his latest album. “I spent five days in Mosul and came back embarrassed that I had known so little about the world and other people’s lives”, he said in an interview.
The songs he wrote before were mostly about love, but after this trip, he made the decision to dedicate a song to the eye-opening experience.
I’m young and I’m foolish, I make bad decisions
I block out the news, turn my back on religion
Don’t have no degree, I’m somewhat naïve
I’ve made it this far on my own
But lately, this shit ain’t been gettin’ me higher
I lift up my head and the world is on fire
There’s dread in my heart and fear in my bones
And I just don’t know what to say
Sam looks back at the way he lived his life up until that point with disgust. He is aware now how much misery there is in this world, but what can he do about it?
You won’t find me in church
Reading the Bible
I am still here and I’m still your disciple
I’m down on my knees, I’m beggin’ you, please
He feels aversion towards the institution of the church, but not God.
Won’t you call me?
Can we have a one-on-one, please?
Let’s talk about freedom
And he is asking God for a one-on-one so he can speak freely with him.
Everyone prays in the end
Oh, I’m gonna pray, I’m gonna pray, I’m gonna pray
Pray for a glimmer of hope
Maybe I’ll pray, pray, maybe I’ll pray
I’ve never believed in you, no, but I’m gonna pray
Pray – Sam Smith
It seems like Sam is saying that everyone has his or her own way of praying or is working on a better future; whether you are religious or not. A beautiful message that Sam wants to impart to us!
What are your thoughts?
Did you ever think there were such unique stories hidden behind Sam Smith’s lyrics? Let us know in the comment section what your favourite Sam Smith lyric is and why!
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