Gloria, the fourth studio album from British pop star Sam Smith, is a beautiful representation of the evolution and growth of Smith as both a person and a musician since their career launched in 2008. Smith has been open about their struggles with body image, both through their music and on social media, and this new album represents both Smith’s survival from their dark past and their newfound feeling of acceptance and self-love.
It is clear that Smith put a lot of emotion and effort into this album, with the first single being released almost a year ago in April 2022. Titled “Love Me More,” the song tells the story of Smith’s journey toward confidence and loving themself. In the verses, Smith connects with listeners by sharing their previous intrusive thoughts about themself and how they were able to convert these negative feelings into positive and uplifting ones. The song’s slow rhythm allows listeners to really take in a set of lyrics that many can empathize with, while also hearing the emotion that Smith is feeling as they sing.
The second single, “Unholy,” was very different from the first, with a unique style to show Smith’s lighthearted side. It’s much more upbeat and fun than some of Smith’s previous work. The song is a collaboration with German singer Kim Petras and quickly became one of Smith’s most popular songs to date. The creativity of Smith and Petras really shows through the synth-pop sounds in the song. “Unholy” goes with the album’s theme of liberation, as the song is about freeing oneself from a tangle of secrets. “Unholy” is also a symbol of Smith’s and Petras’ own journeys of liberation, as Smith came out as genderqueer in 2017 and Petras as transgender in 2006. The song topped charts across the world and even won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance in 2023.
Another one of the more joyful songs on the album is “I’m Not Here to Make Friends,” a track produced by singer Calvin Harris. Smith’s newly found self-confidence is evident in this disco-dance track. In Smith’s previous work, they mostly performed sad and slow songs, but this track and others on Gloria show that Smith is experimenting with their talent and trying out new styles of performing. It’s a breath of fresh air to listen to Smith having fun as they sing the track’s self-empowering lyrics.
Of course, it would not be a Sam Smith album without their signature slow, tear-jerking tracks. In “How To Cry,” Smith describes ending a relationship with someone who could not respond to them emotionally in the way that they needed. They sing about feeling sympathetic for their former partner’s inability to empathize with them, while also recognizing that they needed to end the relationship for the benefit of themself. The song showcases a mature side of Smith, as they are able to acknowledge what they needed and deserved, instead of thinking that they were not enough.
The mix of songs on Gloria makes it more versatile than Smith’s previous work, but such diversity is a welcome change to their music. Smith does a good job of staying true to what they are known for, while also experimenting with new styles and tempos of music. I believe that this is just the beginning of a new evolution of Smith’s career and that they will continue to impress us as they break more and more out of their shell.
Ili Pecullan is a freshman in the College of Human Ecology. She can be reached at [email protected]