Sophie Wilkinson | Contributing Editor | Friday, 23 October 2015

Sam Smith Sells Records In Homophobic Countries But Can He Change Them?

Sam Smith Sells Records In Homophobic Countries But Can He Change Them?

The Debrief: Thanks to his wide appeal, gay people who face death in across the world can feel just a little bit of kinship, but it's unlikely he'll change much else...

Sam Smith may have pissed off a lot of gay people – and straight, and everything inbetween – when he said he ‘hates’ disco, but he’s tried to redeem himself among the community he seemed to distance himself from shortly after coming out.

In an attempt to clarify comments he’d made in 2014 about not wanting to simply be a spokesperson for the gay community, he said: ‘I’m a gay man who came out when I was 10 years old, and there’s nothing in my life that I’m prouder of.

‘What I was trying to say was that I didn’t want the album to appeal to just one community, I wanted it to appeal to all of them. I wanted anyone, gay or straight, to be able to relate to me singing about men, like I was able to relate to Stevie Wonder or John Legend singing about girls.’

He continued: ‘I want to be a spokesperson,’ he told NME. ‘I want to be a figure in the gay community, who speaks for gay men. I sell records in countries where gay men get killed and that’s a big thing for me, because maybe one person in that country will pick up my album, realise it’s by a gay artist, and it might change their opinion.’

It’s a great idea – and it’s pretty sweet that gay people can pick up his album in these countries (or, let’s face it, stream it on Spotify or buy it via iTunes. These countries might be backward enough to not accept LGBT people, but come on, their technology sure belongs in 2015) and feel part of something that speaks to them.

Despite it being called In The Lonely Hour, it’s probably some gay people’s least lonely hour-and-a-bit of soulful easy listening.

However, thinking that being an internationally popular gay musician qualifies you to makes lives better is a little naïve. After all, Elton John is big in Russia. He’s made oodles of money over there and recently said he’d like to discuss LGBT rights in the country – where ‘propaganda’ about gay people was outlawed in 2013, leading to widespread persecution and vigilante attacks against anyone daring to seem a little bit gay.

He even claimed he’d spoken to Putin. But after a radio show pranking Elton by pretending to be Russia’s president, who does, IRL, love Elton John’s music, he only made a short phone call to Elton. He then got his spokesperson to say he’s just a bit too busy to talk it through right now.

His spokesperson said, after a brief phone call between Elton and Vladimir: ‘Putin said he knows how popular a performer Elton John is. If in the future their schedules allow, he’s ready to meet with him and discuss any questions that interest him.’

Bearing in mind Elton first performed in Russia in 1979, a whopping 23 years before Sam Smith – only 23 himself – was born, it looks like he’s got a little way to go before making actual real change in some of the more bigoted countries he sells records in.

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Picture: Getty

Tags: LGBT, Sam Smith