Sam Smith: A Nice Safe, Bland, Boring Choice?

Multi-Award winner Sam Smith is rarely out of the news these days, and the awards keep rolling in for the British-born singer. Since winning the Critics Choice Award at last year’s BRIT awards, Smith’s career has gone stratospheric. According to the Independent, Smith’s debut album, In the Lonely Hour, has sold over five million copies and was the only album to sell over one million copies on both sides of the Atlantic last year.

Just last month, Sam Smith grabbed four Grammy awards, and last week Smith, added a couple of BRIT awards to his ever-growing collection of trophies. Smith grabbed the BRIT for British Breakthrough Act and the Global Success Award for international sales. Smith’s contemporary Ed Sheeran scooped another couple of the BRIT awards.

If one reads the Sam Smith-dominated list of Grammy and BRIT awards winners, it all adds up to a set of awards remarkable only for its sense of safe, bland, boring predictability. The Telegraph, a bastion of British conservatism, went so far as to claim that the success of British artists like Sam Smith should “be tempered by the fact that these artists are producing music better suited to elevators than mosh pits.”

Worldwide, Sam Smith, Sheeran, George Ezra, One Direction, and Take That are by some distance the UK’s biggest musical exports. The one thing they share is their music is safe, bland, formulaic, white, and middle-class. The Guardian says that Smith and the others “offer basically the same product: pleasant music for mums and daughters that sounds a bit like the past without actually referencing any social or cultural signifiers.” Ouch!

Sam Smith was described by the Telegraph as “a 22-year-old white boy doing a bad impersonation of Nina Simone.” What cannot be denied is that at a time of global conflict, political discontent, and an inexorable widening of the poverty gap, artists like Sam Smith totally fail to tackle any of the big issues through the medium of their art.

As Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran continue to dominate both the charts and the awards, the Independent reports that DJ and broadcaster Edward Adoo was less than impressed with the BRIT award winners. He described the BRIT awards as a carve-up run by “middle-class white guys in suits (who) don’t have a clue about their own industry’s diversity. It seems the judges simply don’t think the ethnic talent we have is worthy of being rewarded.”

Given the paucity of artists with any real edge in this year’s music awards, it would seem that the dominance of Sam Smith and his contemporaries is set to continue.

[Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]