After an unforgettable breakthrough with their remarkable vocals on Disclosure’s Latch, to five chart topping UK number one singles, Sam Smith has been a force to reckon with over the past eleven years. And now they are back with their fourth album Gloria, a powerful and emotional collection of songs that showcase the singer’s versatility and depth, delving into the themes of love, religion and queerness.
Having made their career off emotional ballads such as Stay With Me, Too Good at Goodbyes and Like I Can, Smith kicks things off no differently on Gloria by living up to their reputation with Love Me More. A soulful gospel-inspired ballad featuring nothing but their raw honesty and slow self acceptance of themselves: ‘but lately it’s not hurting like it did before/maybe I am learning how to love me more’. The album also features British pop star Ed Sheeran on Who We Love, a soft, piano-driven ballad discussing queer love.
As we move through the thirteen track record, it becomes clear that Gloria isn’t just a collection of slow, sad ballads, but rather a celebration of all genres and tempos, with Smith making it clear they ‘want to be flipping from genre to genre to genre to genre’ (Apple Music). Smith’s rich vocal range is the perfect chameleon throughout the record as they successfully switch between styles from Lose You, a pumping electro-pop club anthem, Gimme, a sex-focused dancehall collaboration featuring Canadian singer Jessie Reyez and well known reggae-star Koffee, and of course the viral pop sensation Unholy. An exciting change for Smith’s musical style.
Another major focus of Gloria is religion because of Smith’s experience of being raised Catholic as a queer person. On No God, Smith battles with the harmful judgement he is faced by critics and challenges them through his silky vocals ‘Just because it’s your opinion doesn’t make it right’. Despite religion generally disapproving of queerness, Smith has used religion to fuel their inspiration and empower their music. The title track Gloria could be mistaken for a church hymn due to the harmonious choir which is featured as well as Unholy which discusses infidelity, the ultimate sin of God.
Overall Gloria features a variety of styles and successfully showcases Smith’s versatility and talent as an artist, as well as allowing themselves to celebrate religion and queerness at the same time. Gloria is a true work of art.