What annoys me most about the punk movement is not the stupid attire, the poorly aimed aggression and the empty, worthless polemic but the insistence from old punk rockers that punk changed everything. It didn’t. There was bad music before, during and after punk and if anything punk just made a lot more people seem happy living with more drudge than before. Arguing that without punk you wouldn’t have had Spandau Ballet is hardly something to cheer about. You can also pick some pompous prog band like Emerson, Lake and Palmer and slag them off all day long and I’ll probably join in for pretty much all of it, but I’d still rather listen to a lifetime of them than turn to stone listening to Sam Smith.
So, in a way I’m kind of blaming punk for Sam Smith and I can’t bear Sam Smith. Of course if you think he’s the best thing since antibacterial floor wipes then please don’t let me stop you going off and doing the dishes or something more productive. You see Sam Smith is back in town and all over the place because he’s got a new album out and EVERYONE is desperate to find out what he’s been doing and how he’s feeling and all that crap. Speaking for myself my concerns about any musicians feelings are of total irrelevance compared to my concerns over the magic of their music. Sam Smith’s new single is many long, hard journeys through time and space away from magic.
His new single is a desperate attempt to recapture the sound of his first album, which itself was a desperate attempt to make music that sounded like a strangled, depressed macaw, backed by a timid gospel quartet that have only just been told what gospel means. He clearly hasn’t spent a great deal of time worrying about producing good gear because he knows that the same misty-eyed fools who creamed their knickers over ‘Stay With Me’, a song crammed with self-loathing and child-like attention seeking, will buy the next batch in terrifying quantities.
Apart from serious brain damage another dangerous effect of Sam Smith’s meteoric rise is that he has made it so much harder for a lot of other people with a lot more talent to break through. The bloke is only 23 and yet in interviews he scrabbles around trying to sound like he’s a proper grown up. He’s made one album. One bloody album and yet he must, surely, secretly think the sun shines out of his arse. Off the back of that album he did a tour, during which he essentially lost his voice and then took 3 years off to do the usual clichéd journey of discovery: to find himself; to find some balance; some perspective; to feel human again; and of course to learn how to ‘let love back in’ following crippling heartache. The kind of crippling heartache you get when you’re 19. Oh, he also won an Oscar, which as we all know means absolutely nothing.
And now he’s back he’s booked a tour of the UK and boy is it a whopper, because he loves his fans. 7 dates across 17 days and then he’s off somewhere else. What a treat for the home crowd, is that how special he thinks he is? Tickets went on sale yesterday and they’re probably sold out by now. You’d be surprised how many people out there find the prospect of being bored to death so appealing. Or perhaps they’ll cry so much that dehydration will get them. Singers and bands with ten times his commitment used to have to tour for years, relentlessly, to get that kind of luxury. Blimey, even Ed Sheeran has earned success more than Sam Smith. Smith is also just another rung of the bland ladder that music is sliding down. Along with Sheeran and Adele he joins such widely acclaimed yawn-mongers as Rag’n’Bone Man, The Script and Gregory Porter, a singer who makes his buck on being ‘authentic’ but to me sounds about as exciting as a mix between John Major and the talking clock. I know at least one person who would strongly disagree with that!
Sam Smith’s new album, misleadingly called ‘The Thrill Of It All’, is coming out any day soon and doubtless millions of people who have never heard soul or gospel music will buy it, maybe you will too. I do hope you enjoy all the Sam Smith you’re going to be getting in the next few months because he’ll be under your pillow before you know it. Turning on Christmas lights somewhere classy – Oxford Street as opposed to Rotherham town centre, singing at the end of Strictly Come Dancing and possibly gently mocking himself in a French and Saunders festive special (but not so much that he goes home in tears). We’ll be hearing the bowl of soggy Weetabix that is ‘Too Good At Goodbyes’ forever and I don’t think that’s acceptable. That said I’m far too lazy to do anything about it so this rant will have to do for now.
G B Hewitt. 28.10.2017
All of a sudden that Michael Ball/Alfie Boe album is starting to look interesting.