By Steve Drayton (Qualified old fart)
Art by Lauren Halls
I know it’s traditional for an older gentleman to rail against the outpourings of the musical youth, and really, I am far enough away from its target audience that I shouldn’t really make complaint. It would be demeaning for a man of my advanced years. However, as part of my job I have to listen to many slices of new pop shit on a daily basis – therefore I’m allowed.
So, Sam Smith.
Is that the best that you can do?
Pop music is now industrialised to the point of suffocation. Miserablism is its dominant theme. Ed Sheeran and Adele are the market leaders, Costco-Soul marketed with laser guided accuracy. With the tail end of their recent marketing blitzkriegs fizzling out, their vacuum is being filled by lacrimose warbler Sam Smith.
Sam landed around 2013 with a couple of guest spots on other people’s records, then began his whinge fest in earnest shortly afterwards. He sold shit loads of his debut album ‘May I Have That Pie?’. He won the academy award for his keening on a James Bond theme and remarked that he was the first openly gay man to win an Oscar. Of course he was. Before Sam, there were no gays in the media. His doe-eyed indolence knew no bounds. He was king for a day. Then he went away. Hurray.
And now he’s returned with his new album – The Thrill of it All. The first song of his campaign is entitled Too Good At Goodbyes. It’s a nails across the blackboard squeal of despair. Sam has had his heartbroken you see. He’s been out a lot. He’s been on a diet. He’s got a new album out. A celebration of wound licking poor-me-erry in excelsis, all delivered with a veneer of ‘serious artist’, when in truth, it’s just a plastic bag caught in a tree, flapping in the wind.
Sam says that we shy away from sadness and that we should embrace it as it’s a part of life. Of course, when we’re younger pain is so much harder to bear, I rolled around the floor to Nilsson’s Without You after Lesley Cross chucked us, but within half an hour I was back up and rocking with Suzi Quatro. Wallowing in self-pity is a young person’s prerogative. That doesn’t mean you should do it. Or encourage it. His songs are the musical equivalent of the crowd shouting at the person on the precipice ‘Do it. Jump you fucker, jump’.
Sam is not the first. He is bringing up the rear with his pity-me-pop, following the current trend for damaged young lads to nasally bemoan their sad and sorrowful lot. They are the emotional remoaners, the bedwetters, the tears on my pillow brigade. The patheticals. No wonder they’re all by themselves, who’d want to hang round those over emoting emotional egoists? So Sam, sling your hook back to Cryville, and if you’re thinking of returning, do it with a spring in your step and a smile on your face.
Oh, just as an afterthought, check out the The Thrill of it All by Roxy Music, now there’s a song that deserves that title.