Carrie & Lowell
Sam Smith is a readymade pop star, no room for dissent here.
Winning both the BBC Sound Of 2014 poll and the BRITs Critics' Choice Award has set Smith up nicely for the year, a success story seemingly written before anyone had even noticed him. It's the industry's pre-ordained triumph, a juggernaut you'd be best off ushering through.
But like another early award winner, there's something else going on here. His trajectory resembles Emeli Sandé's. It's the Trojan Horse manoeuvre. As with Sandé's Heaven and her team-up with Professor Green, Smith has tricked us with his Naughty Boy and Disclosure collaborations and the kinetic breakbeats of debut solo number one Money On My Mind. He's no dance diva — In The Lonely Hour is an album almost entirely composed of ballads, mid-paced at its very speediest.
Not that that turns out to be a criticism, because Smith is a singer of some power, and certainly emotion. Perhaps there's a bit of Boy George in there — Not In That Way and Lay Me Down have some of that blue-eyed soul splendour — and even a touch of Roy Orbison, but Smith's closer to Simply Red, all undemanding class. Not the hip soul man we were looking for then, just a stylish new singer who's probably worth the odd accolade.