He sings for lonely people

Two Saturdays ago, Sam Smith turned from a "Who?" to an "I want to know who that is".

With the release of his debut album still over a month away, the UK singer strutted onto the Saturday Night Live stage, sang everyone's minds out and was promptly announced as the next Adele.

The queen of cry-inducing love songs has been on an undetermined break since having her baby in 2012.

No fear. This equally prodigious singer, only 21 and a big-voiced purveyor of big emotional tunes, has arrived.

You have a month to find out all about him before the world latches on come May 26, when his debut album In The Lonely Hour is released.

The album is already available for pre-order on iTunes here.

Here are our top reasons why he is headed for the big time, just like his spiritual big sister Adele:

THE FEEL

The proliferation of dance music in mainstream pop has been both a boon and a curse, which is where straight-up singers like Smith come in.

Just like how Adele's tearjerkers brought comfort not just to the brokenhearted but also to the pop fans sick of the Nicki Minajs and Keshas of the world, Smith brings the big ballad back to temper the pervasiveness of folks like Pitbull and Eminem.

And like Adele, these self-written ballads are very personal.

"Every single one of my songs is about something very personal to me and I can tell anyone what it's about, each song. Like a diary, basically," he told Interview magazine last year.

But instead of mining heartbreak, he's looking to connect with people like him ­- those who have "never been in love".

"I wanted to write an album for lonely people, because I don't think there's been enough music out there that talks about unrequited love," he told Radio.com last month.

THE ENERGY

Smith, Adele and a whole lot of others like Florence And The Machine, Emeli Sande and Jessie J are recipients of the Brit Awards' Critics' Choice award, also known as the "Artist Most Likely To Blow Up Big Time" award.

Smith has also been announced the winner of BBC's Sound of 2014 poll, an equally important predictor of an artist's success.

Word-of-mouth got him gigs providing vocals for sassy dance tracks Latch by Disclosure and La La La by Naughty Boy, the latter being the fastest single selling in the UK last year.

And even before Smith hit the big time on US TV with Saturday Night Live, country-pop princess Taylor Swift invited him on stage at her concert in London in February to sing his song Money On My Mind.

"This song and this artist are my absolute new favourite," she said by way of introduction.

THE ORIGIN

Like Adele, Smith is one of the bright young sparks in the music industry who does not hail from a reality singing show.

Thank goodness for that, considering how littered pop music is with the failed first albums of bright-eyed young Idol and X Factor winners.

A quick search will tell you that he is fellow UK singer Lily Allen's cousin, but he's never coasted on that relationship.

"I had six managers before the age of 18. After school, I would be in a studio," he told The Guardian last year.

When Smith's hotly anticipated debut album finally drops next month, he will be all of 22 years and 7 days old.

Similarly, Adele was only 16 when she wrote her first big hit Hometown Glory and 18 when she was signed to record label XL, after recording demos on her own.

She was only 20 when she won her first Grammy, and has taken home nine more in five years.

She should watch out, though - we're putting all our bets on Smith to sweep the awards next year.

SONGS TO CHECK OUT

LAY ME DOWN

This scorcher of a ballad was released over a year ago but has got its second wind on the pop charts, thanks to Smith's recent acoustic performance on Saturday Night Live.

WHEN I WAS YOUR MAN (BRUNO MARS COVER)

Smith's fragile falsettos are haunting in this stripped down guitar-backed cover of the US singer's hit ballad.

LATCH (WITH DISCLOSURE)

"Nobody knows who I am but most of the people in this country have heard me sing," he told The Guardian last year. That's thanks to this hit dance track by UK duo Disclosure, which features Smith on vocals.

 

This article was published on April 9 in The New Paper.

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