Shooting from obscurity to fame as the featured artist on Disclosure's "Latch" in 2012, a global smash hit that showcased their distinctively stirring high tenor, Sam Smith has since become one of pop's most prominent balladeers. Taking cues from soul belters like Aretha Franklin and Chaka Khan, followers such as Amy Winehouse and Adele, and their own church upbringing, Smith effectively arrived as a headliner with 2014's In the Lonely Hour. Multi-platinum in the singer's native U.K. and the U.S., the album also garnered Best New Artist and three additional Grammys among a slew of accolades. Smith followed up with 2017's The Thrill of It All, a heartsick album favoring Southern soul and gospel, and by the end of the 2010s accumulated six number one U.K. singles as a headliner: "Money on My Mind," "Stay with Me," and "Lay Me Down," followed by the Academy Award-winning James Bond theme "Writing's on the Wall," "Too Good at Goodbyes," and the Calvin Harris collaboration "Promises." The singer entered the next decade with a handful of additional Top 20 U.K. singles that led to 2020's Love Goes.
Before their commercial breakthrough at the age of 21, the London-born singer and songwriter balanced their studies and music, sang in choirs and in bands, and performed in musical theater productions. They developed a passionate approach to singing inspired by their Catholic upbringing and numerous soul legends, and in the late 2000s headlined a couple low-profile independent singles, "Bad Day All Week" and "When It's Alright." Smith was barely out of their teens when, in late 2012, they reached a much larger audience as the featured vocalist on Disclosure's "Latch." A powerful and loping mixture of U.K. garage and contemporary dance-pop, the song went to number 11 in the U.K., where it also went platinum. Over in the U.S., it took significantly longer to take hold, but eventually hit number seven there and was certified platinum three times over.