“I want to be a figure in the gay community, who speaks for gay men.”
Sam Smith uttered those words a mere two years ago in October 2015 during an interview with NME, a music-focused journalism platform in Britain otherwise known as New Musical Express.
Before that, the powerhouse singer experienced phenomenal success, his album “In the Lonely Hour” being crowned the second best-selling album of 2014 in England and achieving the No. 2 spot on the Billboard 200. That’s not even mentioning the four Grammy awards he swept in 2015 for Best New Artist, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Pop Vocal Album.
The spotlight finally falls upon Smith once more in 2017; he recently announced the release of his sophomore album “The Thrill of It All” and a coinciding world tour on Oct. 6 after previewing new music with two new singles, “Too Good at Goodbyes” and “Pray.”
As the world becomes immersed again in the melancholic ballads Smith pens through personal heartbreak, though, one must ask: Is Smith representing the gay community in the best possible way?
Music is a universal language, and by being an openly gay artist and gaining recognition, Smith acknowledges the goals of the LGBTQ community globally and reassures them that dreams can be turned into a reality with talent, dedication, and ambition. But through a renown of unrequited love and lyricism, such as the one found in his most recent single “Pray,” that consistently reminds people of how “broken, alone, and afraid” they can be, the singer disregards the possibility of happiness and, instead, replaces it with the notion that sadness is insurmountable, especially for the in-the-closet gay community. After all, if a celebrity can’t experience joy after receiving praise left and right from critics and endearment from worldwide fans, why should regular people be able to?
The pensive poetry behind Smith’s songs, however, does not begin to compare with his “need” for a lover conveyed through simple questions and one-liners. He yearns, “Oh, won’t you stay with me?” on his hit single “Stay With Me” before admitting that love is “all [he] need[s].” Through this, he does, not just the gay community, but everyone a disservice by creating the illusion that love is synonymous with a life worth living.
Of course, many prominent artists discuss the hardships of love in their music. But as a singer who wants to vouch and be an icon for a minority through the prose of a heart that must be fulfilled, Smith portrays himself and members of the LGBTQ with ignorance, blind to the fact that life will continue with or without love, and the choice to make it great is solely up to the individual.
That’s not to say everything Smith does sets a detrimental precedent for the gay community. Coming out can be a traumatizing event that can tear a family apart, or a cathartic experience that finally enables someone to be who they are. To take such a significant risk during the release month of his debut album and gallantly take pride in his identity during a pivotal period of time for each and every artist, Smith warrants applause. But the England native has much more potential and positive influence through reminders that happiness can be achieved instead of sob stories to exemplify how easy it is to fall into negativity.
I mean, gay also means happy, doesn’t it?