Sam Smith brought his soulful tunes to New York’s Apollo Theater on Tuesday night, and he also took along a surprise guest. R&B goddess Mary J. Blige joined the singer for a duet on the ruminative “Stay With Me,” delighting attendees at the crowded venue.
Blige walked onstage during the chorus to massive cheers, as Smith brandishes his sweet-spot falsetto. She tackles the entire second verse herself, and the pair trade off gospel vocal runs in the final chorus. The fan-made video is shot too far away to reveal Smith’s facial expression, but his starstruck body language says it all – this is a special moment for the acclaimed newcomer. The performance wasn’t the first time the two have collaborated, with Blige appearing in an alternate single version of “Stay With Me.
On Tuesday, Smith released his debut album, In the Lonely Hour, a set of eclectic tracks inspired by unrequited love. Last month, the singer came out as gay in an interview with Fader, saying the LP “is about a guy that I fell in love with last year, and he didn’t love me back.”
“It’s about a guy and that’s what I wanted people to know – I want to be clear that that’s what it’s about,” he explained. Later, he elaborated further, saying, “I want to make it a normality because this is a non-issue. People wouldn’t ask a straight person these questions. I’ve tried to be clever with this album, because it’s also important to me that my music reaches everybody. I’ve made my music so that it could be about anything and everybody – whether it’s a guy, a female or a goat – and everybody can relate to that.”