Sam Smith

Sam Smith has never been afraid to show how he feels. From the hit ballads “Stay with Me” and “Not the Only One” in 2014 to the sad songs on Smith’s last album, “Love Goes,” in 2020, the common theme is longing, disappointment, and more than a little self-hatred.

But on their fourth studio album, “Gloria,” which comes out this Friday, Sam Smith, who is 30, is no longer sad. Soulful vulnerability is still there, but Smith is ready to beat emotional demons, meet both sexual and other needs, and move forward on the path to self-acceptance.

In between the 13 tracks, there are two breaks: “Hurting Interlude,” which is an excerpt of a news anchor covering the first Pride celebration in New York in the 1970s, and “Dorothy’s Interlude,” which has parts of Judy Garland’s “Over the Rainbow” and a 1973 speech by trans activist Sylvia Rivera at a gay liberation rally.

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Sam Smith, whose pronouns are they, them, and their, came out as non-binary in 2019, and they have talked about the painful backlash they got from people who don’t understand the struggle with gender identity.

But on “Gloria,” which got its name from how much women influenced the album, Smith’s lyrics are more honest and the music is more adventurous. Most of the songs have strings and disco swells, but Sam Smith also uses dancehall (“Gimme,” with new collaborators Koffee and Jessie Reyez) and the choir from their childhood church in Saffron Walden, England (“Gloria”).


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The first song sums up Smith’s ongoing struggle with self-esteem. But the old Smith might have let the insults and verbal jabs destroy their emotional strength. This Sam Smith, on the other hand, just shrugs it off. Over a simple, finger-snapping beat, they come to an important conclusion: “Maybe I’m learning how to love myself more.”

‘Lose You’

Smith said in a statement that came out with the album that this was their “Kylie Minogue meets George Michael meets Abba moment.” The glistening electro-pop and towering chorus do bring the kind of dance-floor bliss that Smith’s predecessors were known for. Smith is honest about their desperate longing for a lover who is packing up and leaving, lamenting how much they’ll miss the “spiritual calm” and comfort (“When I’m with you, it’s like nothing can go wrong”). But this time, it seems like Smith can move forward without looking over their shoulder one more time with a hopeful look.

The song ‘Unholy’ Smith did with another nonbinary singer, Kim Petras, was not only a huge hit on the Billboard Hot 100 last year, but it was also one of the most memorable songs of the year. Smith calls out a guy for leaving his family to do extracurricular activities (“Mummy don’t know Daddy’s getting hot, at the body shop”) in a way that is both slinky and campy and has more than a hint of salaciousness.

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The strummed acoustic guitars that make up the base of this sad ballad remind me of “Wonderwall” by Oasis. After several failed attempts to make a relationship work, Smith’s voice is quiet and full of regret. But when they harshly criticise an ex who never learned to show weakness and say, “I know I’ve got nothing left,” Smith sings with determination instead of resignation.

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