Seven times Sam Smith riled up bigots and became a queer icon in 2023

Screenshot from Sam Smith's music video from I'm Not Here to Make Friends music video

For Sam Smith, 2023 will probably be best remembered as the year they made history – and unapologetically upset a few bigots along the way.

The year started out strong. Sam Smith’s fourth studio album, Gloria, went straight to number one in January.

In February, the 31-year-old, along with German trans pop star Kim Petras, became the first trans and non-binary pair to win the Best Pop Duo award at the Grammys, for their number one, record-breaking single, “Unholy”.

Smith toured internationally, landed a cameo in …And Just Like That, and released banging collaborations with queer favourites, Charli XCX and Madonna – all while embracing their new era of sexuality.

Of course, there were a few miserable souls upset along the way, including but not limited to: Piers Morgan, virtually every person involved with GB News, the leader of far right group Britain First, Morrissey, Laurence Fox, and Noel Gallagher.

Here are seven times Sam Smith riled people up in 2023, and became an LGBTQ+ icon in the process.

Sam Smith’s ‘I’m Not Here To Make Friends’ music video made the news

Back in January, along with the release of Gloria, Sam Smith shared the risque music video for their RuPaul-sampling single, “I’m Not Here To Make Friends”.

Strutting about in a lavish manor, wearing no less than six outfits – including a gorgeous, fluffy pink gown, white corset, diamante nipple tassel and crown combo, and a black Vegas-style headpiece – Smith appeared more confident in their body and in their fashion than ever before.

Yes, the video is a little racy, with the occasional sex act simulation and a small moment dedicated to watersports (we’re not talking surfing), but it’s nothing that hasn’t been done by Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, Madonna and more.

Yet the video ended up being discussed on the morning news in the UK, with one GB News presenter likening it to “extreme hardcore pornography”.

Honestly, what’s pop music without a little sex? Plus, later in the year, it was pointed out that no such fuss was made around Troye Sivan’s “Rush” music video, despite being arguably hornier. 

It proved a point that there’s nothing wrong with Smith’s video – people just don’t like to see trans and non-binary people with bigger bodies having a good time.

Sam Smith terrified religious zealots at award shows

In February and March, Sam Smith took “Unholy” to the two biggest music awards in the world – the Grammy Awards, and the BRIT Awards. 

At the Grammys, Smith was clad in red leather, complete with a devil-horned top hat, while their backing dancers, dressed to look like Samara from The Ring, danced in cages surrounded by flames.

It was a simple, horror movie inspired performance, but some religious fanatics couldn’t take the heat, calling it the “normalisation of Satan”. If you’ve taken note of any piece of pop culture over the past 50 years, you’ll know that devil-inspired themes are fairly common across music, TV, film, etc.

Sam Smith
Sam Smith at the Grammy Awards. (Frazer Harrison/Getty)

A month later, at the BRITs, Smith and Kim Petras delivered another sweaty performance of their hit while dressed in latex bondage gear and eventually, another horned hat.

Again, it wasn’t a far cry from the kind of performance given by every major pop star of the past 20 years, but it still elicited more than 100 sad complaints to Ofcom. Keep crying!

Sam Smith stepped into a new era of body positivity. Bigots wept

Before they even performed “Unholy” at the BRIT Awards, Sam Smith had got the UK writhing after appearing on the red carpet in a black latex bodysuit, with accentuated shoulders and knees. It was camp, it was cool, it was fun, so obviously some people hated it.

Then, in a stunning photoshoot for Perfect Magazine, Smith took subtle aim at those who had sent them fatphobic abuse previously, dressing in corset, codpiece and denim mini skirt.

Sam Smith wearing a black corset with white writing on it, against a pink background featuring other images of Smith from their Perfect Magazine photoshoot.
Sam Smith is unapologetically playing with gender identity. (Perfect Magazine)

The intriguing looks were crafted by designer Michaela Stark, whose lingerie is designed with the purpose of contorting and disfiguring the body. Of course, the photoshoot sent keyboard warriors straight to their computers, but luckily Smith’s fans were ready to defend them

As usual, Smith just ignored the noise, and continued planning their global Gloria tour.

Sam Smith’s Gloria tour kicked off – and so did the online trolls

Sam Smith began touring their hit album Gloria in April, and while the vast majority of the show was entirely PG, the last section, named ‘ACT III: SEX’ got trolls’ tongues wagging. At this point, it felt as as though they were waiting for Smith to give them something to do.

Sam Smith has sent bigots into overdrive with their raunchy performances on their Gloria tour (TikTok/Sam Smith)

During the section of the show, Smith performed “Unholy” and a cover of Madonna’s hit “Human Nature” in a bejewelled corset, thigh-high boots, devil horns and matching trident. Once again, there were spurious claims about the performance being “satanic” but as “Human Nature” says, “I’m not sorry”.

The mindless furore over the end section also meant that many people missed one of the show’s most heartfelt moments – Sam Smith paying a simple, sweet tribute to trans teenager Brianna Ghey, who was killed in February.

Sam Smith can’t even have a laugh without someone raging

In February, during an appearance on The One Show, Sam Smith was asked about their hobbies. “I do love fishing,” Smith declared, adding that they would “love to be a fisherthem” when they are older.

The term, which Smith made up on the spot, is a tongue-in-cheek play on the term “fisherman”, taking into account that Smith is non-binary.

Sam Smith. (Getty)

It was a harmless little quip that showed Smith has a sense of humour, but a few boring people were upset for some reason. Piers Morgan even took the time out of his busy schedule to tell Smith to “shut up”.

One GB News presenter declared that Smith was butchering the English language. To that, we say: werk slay hunty diva boots!

Sam Smith made people angry by… posting a TikTok

The world is full of things to be angry about, but Sam Smith wearing some Teletubbies high-heeled boots should not be one of them. And yet!

After Smith posted a TikTok video of themself wearing the boots, along with a striped top with an image of a boy eating an apple, some social media saps got very upset indeed. 

Sam Smith wears a striped top, denim shorts and Teletubbies boots in new TikTok.
This Sam Smith look has led to a wave of anti-LGBTQ+ slurs on social media. (TikTok)

Among the inane comments though were some pretty serious suggestions that wearing Teletubbies boots somehow equates to being a groomer. Even the leader of right-wing political party Britain First, who has form for targeting innocent members of the public, chimed in.

Regardless, the haters haven’t dimmed Smith’s shine yet. Catch them serving more fierce looks over on Instagram

Sam Smith’s Barbie anthem was a bop, but some people hate fun

In July, Sam Smith was announced as the last artist featured on the soundtrack for film of the summer, Barbie

The song was easily one of the very best from the album, thanks to its soaring chorus, creepy chants in the verses, and glittering Mark Ronson production. Yet it was the song’s title, “Man I Am”, that left some people spitting with rage.

Sam Smith's new Barbie track 'Man I Am' is a is a campy, hilarious ode to Ken (Warner Bros/Getty)
Sam Smith’s new Barbie track ‘Man I Am’ is a is a campy, hilarious ode to Ken (Warner Bros/Getty)

It’s a quietly satirical flip-off to toxic masculinity, and anyone with a crumb of critical thinking skills would be able to work out that the song is sung from Ken’s perspective. Yet, for some, the gall of a non-binary person releasing a song about being a man was just too much to take. 

I mean, the soundtrack went to number one and is currently nominated for a Grammy Award, so it’s unlikely that Sam Smith is, as ever, too bothered.

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