Album Review: Sam Smith - 'Gloria'

27 January 2023 | 10:02 am | Staff Writer

Sam Smith’s fourth album, ‘Gloria’, ushers in an ‘Unholy’ reign.

More Sam Smith More Sam Smith

Sam Smith first got their hooks into the scene when they featured on Disclosure’s track Latch in 2012, with the sleeper hit finding its stride in 2014 and topping the US Hot Dance/Electronic Songs Chart and being named the standout of Coachella that same year. The success of Latch ensured Smith would never be a slow-burn artist again, and they quickly garnered their own following after performing Latch on Saturday Night Live, which catapulted them to stardom. 

When appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon this month, Smith was asked what it was like to perform on SNL in 2014. “I mean, it changed my life. That night after doing it, it changed my career. People knew who I was after doing that show. It was crazy,” they said.

Sam Smith purists might raise a brow at the direction of the Gloria album, but the London-born singer-songwriter is native to dance and pop hits. Gloria marks the intersection of their roots, talents and message around identity, sex and gender fluidity.

Gloria is made up of 13 tracks, with features from Jessie Reyez, Kim Petras, Koffee and Ed Sheeran. The vocalist's angelic tenor and sweet musings that the singer-songwriter is known for can be found in Gloria, but there is an underlying sexiness to this album that showcases Smith in a grittier style.

Love Me More is an instant earworm with the potential to become a self-love anthem. The song starts with that Sam Smith soul before a bouncy beat is introduced, and while the lyrics are simple, the uncomplicated track is versatile and easy to listen to.

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

The Unholy track was the first release on the album, featuring Petras, and is the edgiest song on the album. It follows the story of a woman who is unaware of her unfaithful partner, and the track is accompanied by a sexy burlesque-inspired video clip that takes place in a body shop speakeasy. The instrumental work and sound effects compliment Sam and Petras, creating the feeling you are still at the club at 5am and the deep house DJ is only just starting to drop teasers of the set to come.

The Unholy video is a far cry from the image fans would have of Smith appearing solo on a stage with only a microphone, as it has them sharing the stage with scantily-clad dancers and drag queens. This video, and the song itself, underpin the tone of the album and the identity Smith has stepped into since their last album, Love Goes, in 2020.

Gimme, which features Koffee and Jessie Reyez, is a short and sharp track with a catchy beat and evidence of great musical chemistry between the trio of artists. When Rolling Stone asked how the track came together, Smith confessed that it was the result of a whiskey-fueled evening running around Jamaica, where the tracks from the album were recorded.

RuPaul's Drag Race die-hards will recognise the opening dialogue to I’m Not Here To Make Friends, which states “If you don't love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” The track feels reminiscent of a pop-era gone by, with a Kylie Minogue-feel in not only its lyrics and backing, but its instrumentals and sound effects.

Who We Love, featuring Ed Sheeran, is a surprising but welcome change of gears, with the slow track exploring same-sex relationships and the power to love who we love. This feels like a fitting end to the album, with that signature Sam Smith sound and their authentic message of equality.

When asked if Gloria was based on someone they knew, Smith said “no, it’s a word that’s meant a lot to me throughout my life. The Laura Branigan gay anthem Gloria was something I have always heard in gay clubs, and at school through singing hymns and stuff. But for me, Gloria is something that I’ve called a spirit inside of me that says to me ‘you keep going, you’ve got this, carry on’. It’s like a fighter spirit inside me.”

Bagging the first episode of SNL for the 2023 season on January 21 is yet another feather in Smith’s cap, and marked the singer-songwriter’s third appearance on the show, performing as the musical act in 2014 and 2017. Sam Smith surprised the audience when performing the title track Gloria onstage with a Sharon Stone cameo, as she lay on a golden lounge draped in golden fabric, as Smith was accompanied by gospel vocals dressed in black sequin hoods.

Sam Smith’s Gloria is out now. Their world tour will kick off in April, with the Australian shows slated for October and November.