On October 7, English singer Sam Smith goes Gospel on the stage of Saturday Night Live. Smith played two songs from his sophomore effort, The Thrill of It All.
Smith was Introduced by host Gal Gadot where he delivered a Gospel-ish rendition of his current hit single "Too Good at Goodbyes," backed by a coterie of gospel singers. Then Smith goes on sing "Pray," the final song on his yet-to-be-released new CD. "Pray" is unlike anything Sam Smith has released before, one assumes because of the collaboration with and influence of Timbaland, who co-produced it with Jimmy Napes.
It is characterized by a thumping beat, rhythm in three-four time and strong gospel influences. The gospel choir backing and Sam's voice are more aggressive and powerful than is usual for Sam.
Unlike "Too Good at Goodbyes" Sam has said very little about this track. However, in an interview with Zane Lowe on Beats 1 Radio he refers to having attended a Catholic school as a child. He also once said that, without adhering to a formal religion, he believed that there was 'something out there'.
In the same interview, Sam talked about his struggles with fame and learning to cope with the media - not always a happy experience - and using the pain of his mistakes to grow more mature and responsible. Subtle references to all these issues can be identified in the lyric.
But "Pray" is more than Sam's personal inner struggles. He told Billboard magazine about a recent visit to Iraq: "I spent five days in Mosul and came back embarrassed that I had known so little about the world and other people's lives ... I wanted to write about what is going on in the rest of the world, and that it's not always pretty."