Upcoming Sam Smith release more commercial, less genuine

By Managing Editor

A little more than a year has passed since singer-songwriter and four-time Grammy winner Sam Smith’s soulful croonings and longing lyrics burst onto the U.S. mainstream music market.

His debut album, In The Lonely Hour, debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 after its May 26, 2014, release. The album, catapulted to success by Smith’s hit single “Stay With Me” and collaboration with English electronic music duo Disclosure on the song “Latch,” went on to break records, win countless awards and was certified platinum by the end of the year.

On Oct. 2, Smith announced in a series of tweets that his debut album will now be re-packaged and re-released. In the Lonely Hour: Drowning Shadows Edition, which Smith referred to as “the final bow before [his] second album,” will be released on Nov. 6 with Capitol Records.

It is common practice in today’s industry for artists’ most successful albums to receive re-release treatment. Katy Perry’s chart-topping Teenage Dream album was re-released in March 2012. Nicki Minaj’s sophomore effort was re-released under the lengthy title Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, the Re-Up later that same year. Even Beyoncé gave a second release to her acclaimed self-titled album at the end of 2014.

While album re-releases can be an exciting opportunity for fans of an artist to reconnect with their favorite albums, they are also an inexpensive tactic for musicians to make a quick buck by milking the success of their work.

Fortunately, there have been re-releases done right. Lady Gaga’s 2009 re-release of her debut album, The Fame Monster, featured eight entirely new tracks that could be enjoyed separately from her first release, The Fame.

Drowning Shadows will feature nine tracks that were not included in the album’s original cut, including covers of Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse, previously released one-off tracks, remixes and collaborations with Disclosure. However, of the nine additional tracks, only the title track is entirely new.

Drowning Shadows is an apparent effort to exploit Smith’s commercially successful debut for whatever potential revenue it has left.

The timing of the project’s release insures it will to continue Smith’s streak of astronomical sales. Set to be released just in time for Black Friday, Drowning Shadows will surely reap the benefits of a fourth quarter release, receiving a hefty boost in sales from the winter holidays.

Billboard reported in June that the album had sold 1.98 million copies in the U.S. since its release. It seems likely the album will now cross the 2 million mark in sales with ease when paired with sales of its re-release.

As one of Smith’s earlier fans, I should be excited at the prospect of new music from the artist. I was among the earlier adopters of his music into my iTunes and Spotify libraries. I have fond memories of pre-ordering his album and staying up until midnight to hear its new tracks as he rolled them out during the months leading up to its release. I have since continued to support his music—I’ve caught him perform on every award show, jammed out to his singles on the radio and even bought tickets to see him headlining Lollapalooza. But I’m having trouble finding it in me to be excited for his upcoming re-release. It feels too commercial.