Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, it’s likely that you’ve heard Sam Sparro’s pop hit Black and Gold blaring on the radio, at the gym and especially in clubs. The infectious song has been a hit in the UK and South Africa, screaming through Top 10 charts both locally and internationally.
The 25 year old singer’s sheer charisma has netted him almost universal praise from critics, along with adoration from several higher-ups in the music industry, including indie-music legend Paul Epworth (who helped produce music from Bloc Party and Long Blondes) and recent mainstream bigwig Mark Ronson. Ronson has produced music for anyone who’s anyone in the popular music business today, from Amy Winehouse to Maroon 5 to Christina Aguilera.
Celebrity praise is not a particularly new thing for Sam, who received such auspices at a very young age from one of the world’s leading soul artists. As the son of a Baptist minister various members of the congregation would invite the family for Sunday lunches, and it was at one of these events that young Sam first encountered Chaka Khan.
When someone told Khan about a new gospel track that she should consider recording, 11-year-old Sam offered to sing it for her. The superstar was highly impressed at what she heard. “Damn,” she said. “That white boy can sing!”
Entirely comfortable with being openly, many believe that Sam is a role-model for the LGBT community.
“I’ve always thought, ‘This is me, I’m happy with myself,’ and so that’s what I’m here to project. So that gay teenagers don’t have to get the shit kicked out of them in school and think that they’re a horrible person. It’s easier to be an ‘out’ pop star today. Morrissey never came out, and Neil Tennant left it very, very late, whereas Jake Shears was open from the start.”
“I’m really close to both of my parents, and they’re really supportive and they love my boyfriend…”
He’s in a monogamous relationship with his Mexican-American boyfriend of two years, Adrian, who also works as his stylist. The two met in a bar in West Hollywood. “He approached me and asked for a cigarette – and he doesn’t even smoke”, Sam recently told Attitude magazine.
For Sam, even getting beaten up for being gay, as he used to, has had its plus points. “I’m tougher because of it,” he says. His parents were incredibly supportive about his coming out.
“I thought it was going to be the worst thing in the world and they were never going to talk to me again. I really worried that they were going to disown me. But I should have trusted them a bit more and known that they’re better than that. I’m really close to both of my parents, and they’re really supportive and they love my boyfriend.”
The Australian singer/songwriter was born Sam Falson, and ‘borrowed’ his stage name from an Australian radio mascot, called Sammy Sparrow, a nickname that has stuck with Sam since childhood. The musician spent most of his formative years in Los Angeles, and has moved between London and the United States for the past six years.
Sam is the youngest in a four generation musical legacy consisting of his great-grandfather, a professor of music, his grandfather, a professional trumpet player, and his father, an accomplished gospel singer.
The hit track Black and Gold is layered in disco textures and features a retro style as much as it follows contemporary popular music trends. About the lyrics, Sam claims that the label ‘existentialist pop song’ is the perfect description for the track.
“The song is about a night when I was looking up into the sky. I was thinking about where we come from and where we’re going – is there a God? Is He there? And black and gold was the colour of the universe.”
Sam is blessed with a three octave range that allows him to soar from a thick and husky baritone to a sharp falsetto, and this epic range is pushed even further in his newest single 21st Century Life.
His tight, well-constructed musical style continues in this most recent track, which Sam describes as “an abstract train of thought about the pressure and distractions of living a 21st century life. [The song is] about how fast-paced life is and how we all feel overwhelmed by media, information and technology.”
The album, Sam Sparro is an electro-soul fusion that shows us that Black and Gold was no fluke, and that Sam is certainly not doomed to one-hit-wonder status. The eponymous album has proven Sam’s own weight in gold, and its popularity is a clear indication that alternative sexualities no longer pose a problem in the once ridiculously conservative music industry.