Announced as the winner of the BRITs Critics Choice last month – an award previously given to the likes of Adele, Florence + The Machine and Ellie Goulding – and a hot favorite to be placed at the top of the BBC’s prestigious Sound of 2014 poll next week, 21-year-old Sam Smith seems virtually guaranteed to become one of this year’s biggest breakthrough acts. But of course he’s far from an unknown quantity.
Indeed, his astonishing vocal abilities first grabbed attention back in 2012 when his powerhouse falsetto on the sleek garage-house of “Latch” helped to launch Disclosure on their way to chart domination. Six months later, he found himself with a UK number-one under his belt after providing the similarly soaring hook on Naughty Boy’s two-step throwback “La La La.”
But Sam Smith’s career path began long before he aligned himself with the new wave of the British dance scene. In fact, the Cambridgeshire-born singer had already been through six different managers, one of whom had promised to turn him into the next Michael Bublé, and had recorded an unreleased album by the time he was 18.
But it was only when he moved to London and hooked up with producer Jimmy Napier that his material started to match his voice, and he’s never looked back since. In 2013 alone, he landed a support slot on Emeli Sandé’s UK tour, worked with Nile Rodgers on all-star collaboration “Together,” and received glowing reviews for Nirvana, an impressively self-assured debut E.P. which took in everything from pitch-shifted Timbaland-inspired R&B (“Safe With Me”) to The xx-esque melancholic electro-soul (the title track).
After topping nearly every “Ones To Watch” list, Sam Smith will soon attempt to justify all the hype with his first studio effort, In The Lonely Hour, an “album for lonely people” inspired by a whole host of soul divas (Whitney, Chaka, Beyoncé) along with his own lack of experience when it comes to love. Preceded by the skittering breakbeats and muted ravey synths of anthemic lead single “Money On My Mind,” expect it to become ubiquitous following its release in May.