On Monday, I was lucky enough to sit down with the BRIT Awards' Critics' Choice and winner of the BBC Sound of 2014, the delightful Sam Smith. One of the things we talked about was the return of the acoustic version - or rather, the return of a stripped back, bare bones, no nonsense version of a pop song. Until recently, when it came to making a pop hit, the theory was always: "more is more." Smith is a fan of just letting the voice and the melody speak for themselves, and after chatting to him and listening to his EP, Nirvana, I think I see what he's saying. Powerhouses like Adele and Amy Winehouse never relied on bombastic synths and keys to carry a tune, and now Smith is taking that to the next level by releasing an acoustic version of his own EP.
Now don't get me wrong, I love a massive pop number as much as the next person- Katy Perry's "Dark Horse" is on repeat on my iTunes right now, but what was once essentially a gimmick for new artists to get spotted on YouTube (Justin Bieber first came to our attention as a kid with a guitar on the internet) has come full circle. Acoustic versions are being reclaimed by the artists where, until recently, they were primarily a way for people to cover their favorite artists' songs in order to: get noticed by said artist, get YouTube famous, and/or totally ruin what was a perfectly good track.
Here are five of the best acoustic performances of the last few months, to warm your hearts while winter rages on outside, (except some of them might make you cry. So… sorry about that).
Sam Smith - "Latch" (Live Acoustic)
Jessie J - "I Knew You Were Trouble" (Live at BBC Radio 1)
Miley Cyrus - "We Can’t Stop" (Live on Saturday Night Live)
Love her or hate her, the girl can sing, and Miley silenced a lot of her critics with this version of "We Can't Stop" on SNL. #TeamMiley
Patti Smith - "Stay" (Live at Webster Hall in NYC)
This scrappy footage of a recent Webster Hall show has set the internet abuzz in the last couple of weeks. The legend that is Patti Smith covers one of her favorite songs, Rihanna's "Stay," and it is beautiful.
Sam Smith - "Lay Me Down" (Live Acoustic)
This guy gets to be in here twice because he is the whole reason I am even writing about this. Plus, I like him.