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Sunday
Oct262014

Sam Smith Rides Mediocrity To World Superstardom And Epitomizes Our Societal Devolution

The LBT Arts Critic Questions The Talent Of Brit Crooner Who Has Taken The World By Storm But Might Be Lacking Musical Chops

By EDUARDO LOPEZ-LARMO

Published October 26, 2014

 

Ebola remains highly contained in the U.S.  Indeed, today our worst contagion comes not from Africa but from our mother country – England.  By now nearly everyone has been exposed to the monstrosity known as “Sam Smith.”  Although Smith the individual seems humble and well-intentioned, his grating, nasely falsetto voice serves a stark reminder of our culture’s descent into rank mediocrity.

We quickly have become a civilization accustomed to talent no greater than the untrained efforts of deluded Millenials who form an endless procession onto our talent variety shows.  These young people hail from the generation that received only encouragement and never learned how to pay its dues or accept its limitations. 

[Am I the only one watching these talent programs – or snippets of them – that wonders whether these people are really the best talents we can get on television?  20 years ago almost all of them would have had the humility to stay home.]

Smith follows a long tradition of white Brits imitating black American blues and soul singers.  Much of The Rolling Stones’ music is hijacked blues.  Eric Clapton lifted whole cloth African-American blues music.  Sadly or not, whites seem to sell black music better than black people do.

Smith reportedly lists Whitney Houston as an influence, and he even has a Houston cover track on YouTube.  “How Will I Know” was a playful, up-tempo 1985 pop song for Houston early in her career.  Say what you will about Houston’s arrangements, but she was a genuinely huge talent.  The woman could really sing, and “How Will I Know” did not stretch her talent one iota.  Still, to sing an up-tempo song a singer has to be able to belt out some notes and have some timing.  I was curious to see how Smith would even be able to sing Houston’s song on YouTube.  So what did he do?  He turned it into another plodding, whiney Sam Smith song – the only thing he could do.

A Versus B

Listen to Sam Smiths take on Houstons synth-pop 80s hit. He takes a fun, catchy, bubblegum anthem and turns it into a screeching terror that could induce one to commit suicide:

Now listen to this live interpretation by Houston. Maybe this is not to your taste, but consider the skill level Houston shows with this simple song. Smith could not properly sing this song.

 

Frequently, whites can perform traditionally black music well and even add something to it.  The problem with Smith is that he brings nothing to the table but a gimmicky, light falsetto voice.  He’s like the Bee Gees, only really annoying and without the harmonizing and music-writing ability.  And without the catchy disco grooves.  Oh, any without the healthy ’70s mane of Barry Gibb.  Alright, he’s nothing like the Bee Gees.  Basically, he’s just really annoying.

The hit “Stay With Me” is the same 20 notes over and over again in a plodding procession of machine-generated beats.  A piano student that can play “Chopsticks” could play the piano chords on this song.  Smith’s vocalizations are just trite pleadings to a sex partner that does not share the same feelings.  Rather than empathize with Smith, I want to smack him.  “Develop some self-respect, you pathetic blubber sack!”

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