By now, there is hardly any doubt that British pop star Sam Smith is a provocative artist. In the past ten years, after breaking into the music scene with his undeniable musical talent, he has also become one of the bright voices of the gay community.
The gradation in his self-identification began in 2014 when he announced that he was homosexual, went through the decision to identify as gender fluid three years later, and reached to say that he is non-binary in 2019.
“After a lifetime of being at war with my identity, I’ve decided to accept myself for who I am, inside and out,” Smith announced on Instagram. “I was embarrassed to say it because I care too much about what people think.”
Since then, the singer has ditched pronouns and prefers to be referred to in the plural they/them, and his work has escalated into an increasingly provocative and outrageous emanation of his understanding of sexuality.
For example, in the video of his latest super hit Unholy, the story of the song is quite vividly demonstrated, where a man cheats on his wife by visiting a gay and transgender bar.
And if in Unholy Smith comes pretty close to the scandalous, then in the video for his latest song I’m not Here to Make Friends (“I’m not here to make friends”) he crosses the line and reaches something that some would define and like pure porn.
The clip opens with shots of the artist wearing a giant down coat arriving at a castle in a gold-colored helicopter. There he is greeted by male dancers and drag queens who surround him for a series of dance routines.
Smith’s very look is reminiscent of that of our hometown music scene star Aziz in the earlier years of his career.
The scandalous one is a scene where Sam appears wearing a highly provocative corset with tassels on the nipples and begins to pose while being doused by jets of water of rather ambiguous meaning.
Five days after its appearance on YouTube, the video for I’m not Here to Make Friends already has more than 4.7 million views and has caused a veritable storm of mixed reactions and definitions of “vulgarity”, as well as claims that it is extremely inappropriate for minors.
In addition, Smith himself looks quite plump and in not particularly healthy physical shape, but he is not afraid to show off a wide cleavage and thighs.
In places, YouTube blocked the video, but Smith’s fans and representatives of the LGBTQ community spoke of hypocrisy, as other artists, mostly women, did even more brutal things on stage.
Songs by Nicki Minaj, Rihanna and even Call On Me by Eric Prydz are given as examples.
“If a singer had made the exact same video, in the exact same outfits, nobody would have batted an eye. I think the outrage here smacks of homophobia, transphobia and non-binary phobia,” popular London drag queen Pixie Pollitt told the BBC. according to which there is also an element of hatred against overweight people because Smith “does not fit the stereotypical standards of a beautiful body”.
According to music video producer Ashley Jadey, the video’s focus on the naked bodies of non-binary people is exactly what’s causing the backlash, as it shows versions of sexuality that aren’t often seen.
According to her, we are used to seeing heterosexual men and women on our TV screens and mobile phones, but now everyone reacts strongly when it comes to something different.
“I can understand why some people might think it’s too much. But I think videos have become too sexualized these days anyway,” claims Jaydee.
For writer and screenwriter Gareth Roberts, however, the problem isn’t Sam Smith’s stark and brutal display of unorthodox sexuality. The screenwriter who worked on “Doctor Who” believes that we have seen all this for a long time, but in different forms since the 70s and 80s.
He gives examples of Divine, one of the first drag queens to gain international fame, as well as his favorite musical group, Soft Cell, and singer Marc Almond, whose androgynous appearance and eccentric behavior have caused similar backlash as is now appearing across Sam Smith.
“We’ve come full circle and now we’re going back because what we have here is a freak show of repeating painful clichés and stereotypes,” Roberts wrote.