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Pitchfork: Gloria

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"Sam Smith remains a bit of a pop paradox, a trailblazing figure who often settles into well-trodden songwriting."


You can hear both the freedom and the fustiness on Gloria, an album that feels assertive and diverse when held up against a career that’s hewed so closely to pop’s middle of the road. Smith has described Gloria as being defined by “emotional, sexual, and spiritual liberation,” and if you’ve followed Smith for the last decade, you understand this kind of unrepentant self-love has been hard-won. The histrionic powerhouse who once begged a one-night stand to stick around has transformed into a playful lover and a student of queer history, sampling RuPaul,  Divine, Paris Is Burning, and soundbites from early Pride parades. But these authentic expressions of self share space with a closing track that’s basically Ed Sheeran’s “Same Love,” and that’s the puzzle of their career: Smith’s taste level and writing haven’t kept pace with their comfort in their own skin. 

Best of all is “I’m Not Here to Make Friends,” a whirlwind of grown-up lust that evokes George Michael—a clear predecessor—circa  “Fastlove” and “Outside.” It also suggests that between this song and the sinewy 2018 single “Promises,” the collaborator who best understands Smith’s talents might be vanilla club-pop king Calvin Harris.

The question of collaboration is an interesting one for Smith, because Gloria’s saggy moments largely involve other voices. The barrier-smashing single “Unholy”—the first song by openly non-binary and trans artists to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100—flips a critical cliché by sounding worse in an album-length context, its transgressive glee scanning as shallow and theatrical up against more grounded, mature material.

Ending the album with the Sheeran duet “Who We Love” feels like a step back after Smith’s most nuanced dispatches from a queer life to date.

It’s remarkable we’ve reached this point at all: an artist whose writing has long tended toward the bland and impersonal has grown into a vision and identity that can be compromised by mediocre features. Wanting to hear more from Smith and Smith alone is one of their strongest arguments yet for true stardom. We’re now familiar with Sam Smith as an emotionally generous diva who likes to dance, loves out loud, and can’t resist a gratuitous string section or a gospel choir. It’s a coherent identity, and it leaves the Gloria listener with mixed emotions. Recent hit single aside, Smith has somehow never felt further from pop’s molten core. It’s still a pleasure to watch a singer who once consigned themselves to lovesick, gender-neutral ballads spread their wings. 

Full review here.

Previous scores:

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  • Shook 3
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if this was a cover art then Sam could get a 10 from Pitchfork:diane:

Reveals when?? Results when?? Do we have all the submissions?? Do we have all the votes?? Am I winning??
  • YAAAS 1
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I guess they're not really an album artist. Come to think of it, their singles are a bit hit or miss as well. :shrug:

Edited by Sorcerer
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All I have to say to Piychfork is

“I’m not perfect but I’m working on it, I go up, I go down and go all the way around… I’m not perfect but I’m worth it” :vegas:

The album is amazing, “Lose You” is amazing, Sam‘s vocals are really Glorious, is my new bop :giveup:

Is such a fun album and I just going to get better, I hate reviews so much… :saladga:

“Cause I’m not here to make her , Yeah… I need a Lover, I need a lover, I need a La la la la ” giphy.gif?cid=2154d3d7cf6f5d5ce979dfd8adc5588b86b52dcf6ec40225&rid=giphy.gif&ct=g

39 minutes ago, Sorcerer said:

I guess they're not really an album artist. Come to think of it, their singles are a bit hit or miss as well. :shrug:

I’m Not Here to Make Friends, Perfect and Lose You, following as single is going to keep the album rolling… we still have spring then summer, with all the performances Sam will do, is just meant to get bigger me thinks :partysick:

Hottie Detector
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I agree with partysickfork

"Banana is not just a fruit, it's a lover" Joe Biden 1898 in the Phantom of the Oprah
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