A brilliant comeback. Three years later Love GoesSam Smith returns this Friday with a fourth album, Gloria. An opus full of optimism, sexy, where unhappy loves only hold a very small place. Released in the fall, one of the first extracts, Unholy, his duet with Kim Petras, went gold in France, Belgium, Spain and Germany, and certified platinum in the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, Australia… The British artist, now in his thirties , repeats that he “wants to have fun”, to have fun. He chose 20 minutes for his only interview with the French press…
Unholy is a hit all over the world. Did you feel that this song had such potential?
Doing this song with Kim Petras was pure pleasure for both of us, we had wanted to work together for a long time. We have more in common than people might think because, although I’ve done ballads like stay with meI come from house music and dance. Unholy is special for me, I even think it’s one of my best songs but I never imagined that it would become such a success.
Does this success reassure you before the release of the album? Or does he pressure you?
Neither. I’m just proud and excited to share my music. The only pressure I feel is to challenge myself, not to indulge in complacency by doing the same things over and over again.
In this album, you show a new side of yourself, more sensual, sexual…
People forget that I started my career quite young. At 20, I didn’t feel comfortable, especially as a queer person, with the idea of showing a sexual facet to the crowds that came to see me. It took me time and I wanted to do it well. But I’ve always been authentic, myself, it’s just another part of my personality that I show.
In the song Love Me More, which opens the album, you sing: “Every day I try not to hate myself. It’s less and less painful. Maybe I’m learning to love myself more. Is this a way of announcing the tone of this disc?
This is the first song I wrote for this project. I wanted to convey that this was an album about joy – or rather about being honest about joy. It is often a fleeting emotion, one cannot be happy or happy all the time. I wanted to show people where I was mentally at that time. It’s really a fun album.
You wanted to leave the stories of broken hearts aside to tell more optimistic things?
Yes, that was my goal. I write what seems consistent with who I am. When I worked on the album, I was not in a relationship and I felt very good as a single person. I wanted to express that. There weren’t many heartbroken stories to tell.
How is a Sam Smith song born?
My source of inspiration is always life. As artists, our mission is to observe the world. I like to watch the people around me, tell stories, capture powerful emotions and put them into a song so they can help people going through difficulties. When I write I always have in mind the notion of healing, of scarring.
Is it wrong to say that this album can be understood as a guide to navigating the ups and downs of queer life?
All my albums are queer because I’m queer. But it is close to my heart to consider music as a universal language, something that brings people together. These songs are not just for queer people but yes, you could say they come from a queer prism.
In the space of ten years, you have come out twice…
My coming out gay, I did it when I was a child, at school. It should not be confused with my coming out in the media. I have always been out. As for non-binary, again, I find the term coming out irrelevant, because I’ve always felt non-binary.
In the United Kingdom, as in the United States or in France, transphobic positions abound in the media space. We also see conservative movements attacking drag queen shows. What does this remind you of?
Even though things seem, at times, to be moving in the right direction, we are also targeted by so many painful things. The community [LGBTQ+] is strong, it always has been. All I want is for us to continue to come out of our homes with our heads held high, to learn from each other, to share our stories, to be kind and caring. That’s all I hope for.
Back to album. On Hurting interlude, we hear these words: “Having to lie is the saddest and most ugly thing about being gay. When you have your first bad love experience, you can’t go see your brother or your sister to tell them that you are suffering. “Why this excerpt?
Because this interlude is placed before the song Lose You which was inspired by a lesbian friend. She was in a relationship with a woman and she experienced her first gay heartbreak. I wanted to transcribe on this devastating feeling that is a broken heart. I was looking for quotes on the internet and came across pictures of the first New York Pride Parade [en 1970]. The voice is that of a journalist who talks about queer lives. I found what he was saying to be very profound and very true.
The second interlude, Dorothy’s Interluderefers to another queer reference: the character of Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz…
He launches the dance part of the album. That’s what I would like to hear in a club, just before a disco song is played. We hear the voices of Judy Garland, Divine, RuPaul… I wanted to bring these incredible icons together in the same movement. I love that !
The devotees of RuPaul’s Drag Race recognize the famous “If you can’t love yourself [comment pouvez-vous envisager d’aimer quelqu’un d’autre ?] » in the opening of I’m Not Here To Make Friends. Is it a motto that you are trying to apply?
RuPaul’s sentence is just great. I look forward to hearing it resonate at each of the concerts on my tour. It uplifts the spirit. I’m Not Here To Make Friends talk about dating. I was tired of going to dates in front of people who did not want to have a romantic relationship with me and who came instead to meet me as an artist or to become my friends. The day after one of those meetings, I went into the studio and made this song about the frustration I was feeling.
The song Gloria contrast with the other titles. It’s a piece with a gospel, spiritual atmosphere and it’s also the one that gives its title to the album…
I haven’t always done it on purpose but, in my music, my voice has very often been accompanied by choirs. I was in a choir, younger. I went to a Catholic school. And when it comes to talking about music that comes from my heart and soul, I think those elements come back. “Gloria” is a word that I heard for the first time as a kid, in a church: Gloria in excelsis Deo [ « Gloire à Dieu »]. Older, going out in gay clubs, I heard the song everywhere Gloria by Laura Branigan [la reprise en anglais du tube d’Umberto Tozzi] and she stayed with me. The title of the album refers to this hymn and nursery rhyme that I wrote for my former self. Gloriait’s a spirit that is in each and every one of us, it’s a female voice that tells us to hold on, that we can do it.
You will be in concert on May 13 at the Accor Arena, in Paris. What can the public expect?
I work hard on this tour, much more than on any of my other projects. My goal is to combine my love of theater with that of pop music. I want to give the public a real show, articulated around an ensemble and not centered on me. I will be surrounded by great artists and musicians. I’m going to work with La Horde, the French dance collective that, among other things, did the choreography for Unholy. My concerts will therefore have a French flavor (smile).