Just 10 years ago a gay male artist quickly achieving mainstream success with a debut album inspired by his love for another man would sound practically impossible.
But if you are a fan of Sam Smith, or listen to the lyrics of his songs, it is no surprise that he is gay.
Yet, we do not talk about Sam Smith’s sexuality. Why is that?
On May 22nd, Sam Smith released his video for “Leave Your Lover”. The video portrayed Sam walking throughout Paris alongside a woman and man. In the final seconds of the video the viewer learns that Sam’s affection was geared towards his male companion.
Just 6 days later on May 28th, The Fader published their cover story where Sam described how his upcoming album was inspired by a man he had fallen in love with, but had never loved him back.
“In the Lonely Hour is about a guy that I fell in love with last year, and he didn’t love me back,” Smith said. “I think I’m over it now, but I was in a very dark place. I kept feeling lonely in the fact that I hadn’t felt love before.”
The media ate this story up and deemed it Sam’s official coming out. And the questions came pouring in. But Sam handled this in the greatest way possible. He didn’t make it about his story. He didn’t shine the spotlight on him being gay. He made it about his music.
In a recent interview with OUT Magazine Sam Smith stated..
“My aim is to tell people how good it’s been for me so that, hopefully, gay men or parents with gay children can look at my story and think, Wow, that’s how it should be. That’s what we can work towards. That’s been my whole motive — to not make it a talking point. My music should be a talking point. My voice should be a talking point.”
I have had hundreds of conversations with people from all walks of life about Sam Smith. Not one has been about his sexuality.
Every conversation is strictly about how talented he is and the beauty of his music. And that is exactly what it should be about. Did you ever hear the name Michael Sam around the NFL draft this year? Of course you did. All the media (sports and news) talked about for weeks was how he was the first openly gay NFL player. They analyzed every aspect of how this would change the game forever.
But they missed the point. It doesn’t matter if he’s gay or straight, just like it doesn’t matter if he’s black or white. One question matters. Can he play football? And that answer was no, as Michael Sam was cut from the St. Louis Rams before the season began. So they made a media circus simply out of his sexuality.
Yet with Sam Smith, no one cares about his sexuality. Why? Because he doesn’t let other people form opinions and speculate. He took a risk and put his heart out to the masses in the most vulnerable way possible: his music. And it was beautiful. So beautiful that all people could talk about was his voice.
The media didn’t need to “fish” for a click-bait story, they had a natural one in his voice. And it is important to note that I mean “voice” not just in the way he sings. It does include his vocal tone/range, but it also includes his public voice. The genuine way he talks about love, vulnerability, and the power of music.
His story is one to inspire anyone. To label it a “gay” success story would have been to limit the power of music.
“Music is about reaching the masses, having a message, getting through to everyone, and trying to make some sort of difference. Music, to me, is that powerful.”
You are not alone with that thought, Sam. Music is that powerful. Especially when it comes from the right place. To end the article, the best words come from OUT Magazine itself:
“The fact that Smith’s sexuality has become a mere footnote in his journey this year is mostly a testament to his undeniable gift — ultimately, it’s the songs that speak the loudest. But it also signals a cultural sea change. Simple, stripped-down honesty, it seems, is the new formula for success.”