Sam Smith Takes Stunning Ride in Tracy Chapman's 'Fast Car'

Craig Rosen
·Writer

He first broke with guest spots on the British hits "Latch" by Disclosure and "La La La" by Naughty Boys. Eventually, British singer Sam Smith made a name for himself with his own songs, such as "Lay Me Down" and "Money on My Mind," and rose to international stardom with his third single, "Stay With Me" and his debut studio album, In the Lonely Hour.

If, by chance, you still aren't hip to Smith, perhaps his cover of Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car" (watch it here)  will convince you to hop on board. The stark acoustic number made Chapman a star back in 1988 with its tale of a young woman desperately trying to escape the cycle of poverty she was raised in and continues to struggle with in her adult life.

The song became a worldwide hit after she performed at the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute concert at Wembley Stadium, reaching the top 10 in the U.S., the U.K., Australia, Canada, and Ireland and earned Chapman a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 1989.

Over the years, "Fast Car" has been covered and sampled dozens of times by other artists ranging from Xiu Xiu to Nice & Smooth, but few have had success. Back in 2010, American Idol alums Kelly Clarkson and Daughtry turned it into a duet on the concert stage. More recently, in 2011, Michael Collings used the song for his audition on Britain's Got Talent, and the exposure brought Chapman's original back onto the U.K. charts, for the first time in 23 years, at No. 4, but that wasn't the first time the 22-year-old Smith heard it.

Prior to his performance, Smith revealed he first heard the song, appropriately enough, while in a car. "When I was in primary school, I was in Year 6, so I was 10 year old, I went to this award thing with my head teacher," he recalled. "I remember being in the car and she was playing Tracy Chapman and I started singing along to 'Fast Car' and that was the reason why I sang in the first ever school show I sang in, because [that teacher] helped me. I've always loved Tracy Chapman since that moment."

As such, Smith owns the BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge "mystery cover" like he wrote it. In an on-air phone chat prior to the performance, when Smith revealed he was performing the song, host Fearne Cotton was obviously pleased. "I love that song," she enthused. "Tracy Chapman 'Fast Car' is like one of my faves. When I was kind of in my late teens, I played that song obsessively, so to hear someone I absolutely adore sing it beautifully in the Live Lounge later is going to be a massive treat."

Needless to say, Cotton wasn't disappointed. "What a gorgeous arrangement of that song as well," she said following the performance. "I don't even know how to describe it, because love doesn't cover it. It's not a big enough word."

"I think it was sexy," Smith interjected, "thanks to these guys, my amazing band."

"Sexy and smooth," Cotton added, "all of you together, it was just absolutely gorgeous."

So, what do you think?

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