Last year, British singer Sam Smith invited some criticism when he made comments about wanting to be ‘more than a spokesperson for the gay community’. Some fans were upset, as they felt Smith should be championing his community, and so should be more vocal about gay issues.
Now, a year later, Sam Smith has seemingly changed his mind about wanting to be a representative for the gay community and, in a recent interview with the British music website NME, he explained that change of heart.
I’m a gay man who came out when I was 10 years old, and there’s nothing in my life that I’m prouder of,” Smith said. “What I was trying to say was that I didn’t want the album to appeal to just one community, I wanted it to appeal to all of them. I wanted anyone, gay or straight, to be able to relate to me singing about men, like I was able to relate to Stevie Wonder or John Legend singing about girls.”
And, personally, I understand Sam Smith thinking that way. As, let’s face it, if a singer is known primarily as a ‘gay artist’, which can happen if they speak a lot about gay issues, it can sadly prevent other potential fans from getting to know their work. Particularly when they are just starting out in their music career as Smith still was when he talked about this.
Not that homophobia is always present in the decision to not look more closely at a singer’s work. It’s just that some would-be fans may think his music wouldn’t have anything to offer them if they are not gay.
So, yes, it is sometimes better to simply be known as ‘an artist’, with the fact that he or she is gay being just another part of who they are. Which, to me, was what Sam Smith meant all along.
Smith, however, now says, “I want to be a spokesperson. I want to be a figure in the gay community, who speaks for gay men. I sell records in countries where gay men get killed and that’s a big thing for me, because maybe one person in that country will pick up my album, realise it’s by a gay artist, and it might change their opinion.”
And, as odd as it may sound, I understand him changing his mind on this as well.
After all, Smith is now massively famous, with a legion of fans around the world. That level of fame kicked in after his appearance on Saturday Night Live in the United States in March, 2014.
And once an artist does hit superstar level, as Smith has now done, they can be more outspoken about issues they may not have talked about before, as doing so is far less likely to damage their career.
Sad, but true.