‘Gloria’ depicts self-acceptance and explores queer culture
Nicole Bilyak | Tuesday, February 14, 2023
British pop singer Sam Smith has not released a studio album in nearly three years since “Love Goes” graced the charts. Smith came out as non-binary in 2019, just one year before “Love Goes” was released. Then nothing was heard from them for a while until 2022 when Smith announced the release of their fourth studio album “Gloria.”
The album was released on Jan. 27, 2023. “Gloria” clocks in at just over thirty-three minutes long, with thirteen tracks that feature some well-known artists collaborating with Smith including Scottish DJ Calvin Harris and fellow English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran. Along with Harris and Sheeran, Smith collaborated with German transgender singer Kim Petras for one track.
The first track to be released for “Gloria” was the album’s first song titled, “Love Me More,” which was described by “Rolling Stone” as a “self-empowering anthem”. But the one song that shot to the top of the charts was the album’s sixth track titled “Unholy”. This song was considered one of the most sexually charged songs in the album. “Unholy” had a music video that was released on Sept. 30, 2022 and features a woman who is following her husband after suspecting him of cheating to a cabaret-style show called “The Body Shop”, with Smith serving as the show’s master of ceremonies.
The album also features several tracks that are under two minutes long. Among those tracks, there is one song that is the title of the album. “Gloria” is a beautiful gospel song that actually does not involve Smith themself. If you listen to the song closely, you can hear Smith vocalizing while the gospel choir is the star of the song. There are also two interludes that are not even thirty seconds long. The first of these interludes, “Hurting Interlude,” contains excerpts from a news anchor who covered the first Pride celebration in the 1970s and the second interlude, “Dorothy’s Interlude,” contains segments from several films that depicted the LGBTQIA+ community, including Divine from John Waters’ “Pink Flamingos”, Judy Garland from “The Wizard of Oz,” a speech by Sylvia Rivera from a 1973 gay liberation rally and the 1991 documentary “Paris is Burning.”
This album really depicted being different and what it is like to be a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. Since Smith and Petras (who appears on the album) are considered members of the community, many of the tracks depicted self-acceptance. It also explored Smith’s upbringing of being a queer Catholic in their childhood. Many of the tracks on the album had a noticeable religious vibe to them, including “No God”, the album’s second track.
Of course, this album is not without a load of controversy. In the weeks after the album was released, Smith and Petra performed “Unholy” at many awards shows, most notably at the Brit Awards this past Saturday. This sparked several discussions about Smith’s clothing choice of wearing a huge leather blowup suit and extremely large boots that actually depicted Smith as an auto-shop worker. Many of those who viewed the performance described it as being very raunchy since the song is, as stated above, sexually charged and made to seem like a song that could be performed at a strip club.
I personally loved this album. I have been a huge Sam Smith fan ever since their first song “Stay With Me” was released almost a decade ago. This album really speaks to me since I was brought up Catholic and I loved all of the little details that Smith brought up in all of the songs. Every song had a loud message that needed to be shouted from the highest hill.
For what it was worth, “Gloria” was definitely the breath of fresh air that Sam Smith needed and hopefully fans feel the same way as well.
Favorite Tracks: “Unholy,” “Gloria,” “Love Me More.”
If you like: Ed Sheeran, Josh Groban