Please pardon the cliché, but this past month I have experienced many “ups and downs“. The “ups” involve this blog as I took advantage of two opportunities to work on my music historian skills with posts about Johnny Winter and James Brown respectively. The “downs” have been dealing with the deaths of two friends who really supported my music blogging endeavors. Therefore I approach this week somewhat energized after two well received posts, but also needing to push forward without the encouragement of surrounding friends. I am going to keep writing because I am sure that is what my friends would have wanted. How do I follow two historic, lifetime musicians who blazed a trail for the next generation to follow? Well, why not look at a new artist who shows great potential like British Soul singer/songwriter Sam Smith? I think that would be good.
Sam Smith rose to fame in October 2012 when he was featured on electronic music duo Disclosure’s breakthrough single “Latch”, which peaked at number11 on the UK chart. His subsequent feature—on Naughty Boy’s “La La La”—earned him his first number 1 single in May 2013. The young star has not slowed down as he released his debut solo studio album In the Lonely Hour May 26, 2014 and has continued to enjoy breakout success.
Sam Smith has steadily made his way to the status of household name with a string of very high profile television appearances. I am not alone in taking notice of this young vocalist who seems to be following the footsteps of other historic crooners of times past. In preparation for this week, I got a chance to listen to In the Lonely Hour entirely a couple of times. I mention that I listened more than once to let you know the album is very good. Sam Smith is truly talented with the pairing of production and writers that should give him one of the most successful albums of the year. Fraser T Smith, Two Inch Punch, Simon Aldred and Eg White have had a hand in some of the most successful acts from the UK like Adele, CeeLo Green, Lianne La Havas just to name a few, with Sam Smith now joining the list.
As with most performers, the backgrounds of musicians always intrigue me. I always would like to know more about why an artist chose a particular genre or style of music. Sam Smith proves to be another interesting story when it comes to musical beginnings. Smith is an alumnus of Youth Music Theatre UK and starred in their 2007 production of “Oh! Carol”. For a number of years he studied singing and songwriting under jazz vocalist/pianist Joanna Eden. Smith’s studies under Eden would seem to give him a very good backdrop as he continues to develop musically as an artist throughout future years. It may also explain why he chose the soul music genre, as the jazz background enables him to utilize much of what he learned with Joanna Eden. He attended St Mary’s Catholic School in Bishop’s Stortford and was a member of the Bishop’s Stortford Junior Operatics (now Bishops Stortford Musical Theatre Society) and the successful Cantate Youth Choir. I am sure Sam Smith’s vocal talent became apparent with choral performances, but sometimes stardom is difficult to predict at such a young age. Nevertheless, when you listen to Sam Smith you can hear much of what he learned while a member of the choirs.
Of course, when you have a fast rising star like Sam Smith, the rumors also come fast and furious. Over the past few weeks, Smith has been dealing with a rumor that he is in line to record the title song for the next James Bond movie. It would seem like the perfect gig for the twenty-two year old sensation, but according to Smith, the rumor was false. Right away, many probably thought about the young female artist Adele, who got her chance to sing the previous Bond title song. Most likely that is the reason this rumor began, as both are young Soul singers and from the UK. It was not going to happen, at least not right now.
It was then I thought about all of the notable singers from the UK that capitalized on the opportunity of performing the title songs for James Bond films. There are quite a few. I remember Shirley Bassey from Wales who actually sang three: Goldfinger, Diamonds are Forever and Moonraker. Tom Jones, also from Wales, gave us Thunderball. Paul McCartney and Wings sang the title to Live and Let Die. Scotland’s Sheena Easton did For Your Eyes Only. Also of note was Duran Duran bringing us A View to a Kill. The last James Bond movie and song came in 2012, when previously mentioned Adele performed Skyfall. Yes, even Sam Smith admitted that he would be open to the idea of performing a James Bond theme song. It really might be a good idea. Stay tuned.