Weird, obsessive, over-the-top. Words that have been used to describe former Disney child stars, every guy who starts drumming on a Home Depot bucket in the subway, and several famous serial killers.
They’re also used to describe me.
Uh, but not like that—fret not, I have yet to overdose on prescription drugs, the only thing I’ve ever performed on public transit is emo slam poetry, and the closest I’ve gotten to going full Dahmer is listening to Maroon 5’s “Animals” on repeat while studying for midterms.
But I do hear words like that almost every time someone walks into my bedroom, which doubles as a shrine to Sam Smith. Guests enter, see the Sam Smith records hanging on the right-hand wall, and think, “Okay, cool.” Then they turn, see a massive framed poster of Sam Smith on the left-hand wall over my bed, and think, “This dude’s got issues.”
And they’re right: I have a bad knee, I’m lactose intolerant, and sometimes, I get nervous on airplanes.
But my obsession with Sam Smith—who, for the uninformed and uncultured, is the UK-born vocalist behind 2014’s multiple Grammy Award-winning album “In the Lonely Hour,” whom the heavens sent from above to grace mere mortals with his divine presence—is not one of them.
My one-sided love affair with Sam (I assume we’re on a first-name basis) began even before the full album was released—I remember the first time I heard his unmatched voice featured on Disclosure’s “Latch.” Ever since senior year of high school, I’ve listened to Sam’s music almost constantly, making him my most listened-to monthly artist on Spotify for over 30 straight months, and I even added him as my phone background to add a visual layer to the audio-centric obsession. Before my weeks-long search for the aforementioned poster came to fruition, I designed a custom one and was prepared to pay [number redacted] dollars to have it printed. In what was truly the pinnacle of my torrid fanaticism, one particularly lovely blockmate threw me a Sam Smith-themed 20th birthday party—complete with a Sam Smith party playlist curated by another lovely blockmate.
Which is not to say this obsession with Sam doesn’t create challenges for my life. It has led to me crashing my car in an ice storm on the way back from a life-changing concert and is why my Spotify playlist is almost never chosen for road trips with friends or family (unless I’m voted in as driver, which, because of example #1, I am not). It is also, I tell myself every day, the only reason that I’m single.
And then there are, as I mentioned, the Haters. The Haters seize on different aspects of my Sam Smith obsession to mock, and we must be wary, for the Haters take many forms: the fellow FM exec who refuses to come to my room because he “hates that poster”; the guest last weekend who knocked on my door, mocked the records on the wall, and then proceeded to ask me for advice on problems he was facing; the woman on Metro North who told me to turn down my music because she could “hear that shit from your headphones.”
What they don’t understand, and what they won’t understand, is that every line of “that shit”—and every falsetto, voice break, and croon that defines Sam Smith’s style—is, in my mind, connected to someone or something. I hear “Too much of a good thing, won’t be good for long,” and I see the heart I would’ve given anything not to break; I hear “I feel we’re close enough,” and I remember all the times we weren’t; and I hear “Drown all my shadows, drown them like before,” and I remember last May.
But Sam Smith’s music—despite a common misconception—isn’t just about the people or things who have hurt your heart: It’s also about those who have made it feel better. “Life Support,” to me, is about all the people who’ve been there for me when I needed them; “Nirvana” is about the people in my life who take me there every day; and “Latch” is about the people I clung to in the foam at Mather Lather.
The Haters don’t really think about such possibilities—not because they can’t, but because they don’t want to. If you really want to stump the Haters, ask them if they’ve ever considered whether I might have these personal, serious reasons for loving Sam.
I’ll spoil the answer: They haven’t.
Which is sad. Not because their words hurt me or upset me—I’ve heard them so many times before that at this point they’re boring—but because people who are, ostensibly, friends, feel compelled to belittle music that makes me happy, décor that makes my room homey, and an obsession that keeps me entertained—not because it affects them, but just because they feel like it. And I’m not even one of those “Don’t judge, lest ye be judged” types—have you seen those people obsessed with eating plastic bags? For Christ’s sake, let’s focus on harassing them.
They say that the first step to healing is admitting you have a problem. Fortunately for me, I don’t think I do.
I say fortunately because after the important stuff—God, family, friends, school, country, and Corps—is all said and done, Sam Smith’s music is a part of my life I would never trade away or give up in order to silence the joking words or narrow the widened eyes. It has a message, a message that it’s okay to be sad, okay to be lonely, okay to not be okay. But it also says something more than that—that underneath all that hurt and that heartache, it’s important to hope and to love, because one day, some weird, obsessive, over-the-top kid is going to hang a poster of you in his room, and things are going to be a little bit better.