Although the first solo single from soul-inspired, London-born artist Sam Smith was issued in early 2013, it was his soaring vocal contribution to Disclosure's 2012 garage track "Latch" that brought him to most people's attention. For most of his teens, Smith balanced study with music, soaking in a raw and passionate approach to performance, exemplified by his favorite artists at that time: Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, and Chaka Khan. "Latch" hit the upper reaches of the U.K. singles chart when Smith was 21, and many were surprised when his debut solo single took a more tempered path. The production on February 2013's "Lay Me Down" -- also courtesy of the ordinarily dancefloor-focused duo Disclosure -- recalled the stripped-back material that had proved successful for Adele in the preceding years. Next, Shahid Khan (aka Naughty Boy) decided to follow his Emeli Sandé-fronted U.K. Top Ten hit "Wonder" with the infectious, Bollywood sample-driven "La La La." Featuring Smith's powerful lead vocal, it became an instant May 2013 U.K. number one single following his spring tour in support of Sandé.
In October of 2013, Smith issued the Nirvana EP, which included an acoustic reading of "Latch," and by the end of February 2014 he was at the top of the U.K. singles chart once again with "Money on My Mind," an infectious track that inventively married his relaxed vocal with a frenetic beat. Smith's debut full-length, In the Lonely Hour, was released that May in the U.K., and topped the charts. It arrived in the U.S. the following month, eventually peaking at number two. The singles "Stay with Me," "I'm Not the Only One," and "Lay Me Down" hit the Top Ten in both the U.K. and U.S., and In the Lonely Hour helped Smith earn dozens of awards, from organizations as varied as the BRIT Awards, the Grammys, the Billboard Music Awards, and the BET Awards. The album ended 2014 as the second best-selling album of the year in the U.K. and U.S., behind only Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift, respectively. In 2015, Smith recorded another Disclosure collaboration, "Omen," eventually heard on their album Caracal. He also earned the high honor of being chosen to record "Writing's on the Wall," the theme for the 24th James Bond film, Spectre. ~ James Wilkinson