Sam Smith started performing as a child and scored his first hit contributing vocals to Disclosure's 2012 "Latch," but his first press coverage came in 2009, when his mother, a banker making over £500,000 a year at Tullett Prebon, sued her employer after being fired for, in part, promoting her son's pop career while at the office.
These days, it seems that she might have been on to something. In January, the 21-year-old topped fellow newcomers Banks and Sampha to win BBC's Sound of 2014 poll; in February, he won the Critics' Choice category at the annual Brit Awards; and two days ago, he crossed the Atlantic to perform a pair of songs on his first SNL. Here are a few facts to help you get to know the rising singer a little bit better.
His solo tunes sound tend to sound less like "Latch" and more like those performed on SNL.
Those expecting to hear the garage bounce of that Disclosure collab were likely surprised to find Smith crooning blue-eyed soul – his first song featured a small gospel choir, the second was backed only by piano and cello – during the SNL broadcast. His own releases – even the Disclosure-produced "Together" – sound more like this than the club music he has become associated with, evening earning comparisons to Adele.
Jimmy Napes, a co-writer on "Latch," introduced Smith to Disclosure and contributed to recent Nile Rodgers collaboration "Together."
The chemistry between Napes and Smith was so strong that they wrote "Latch" together in their first session. Late last year, they reunited with Disclosure and brought in Nile Rodgers to record "Together," a humid, dubby track that made November feel like June.
His new music video is like the negative of that for Pharrell's "Happy."
In the clip for "Stay With Me," one of the songs performed on SNL, Smith wanders the streets of London, looking at the camera while he sings couplets like "Guess it's true, I'm not good at a one-night stand/But I still need love 'cause I'm just a man." Imagine, in other words, the contemplative, washed out cousin to the effervescent video for Pharrell's "Happy," one in which salvation comes not from the arrival of 24 hours of friends but from that of a full-on, carefully arranged gospel choir.
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This article originally appeared on Rolling Stone: Who Is Sam Smith? A Quick Primer on the U.K. Soul Singer