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Sam Smith’s ‘To Die For’ Is the Perfect Valentine’s Day Breakup Song

Still from Sam Smith's "To Die For" music video.
Still from Sam Smith's "To Die For" music video. By Courtesy of Sam Smith/Capitol Records
By Annie Harrigan, Crimson Staff Writer

On Feb. 14, English singer-songwriter Sam Smith released their latest single, the titular track off their forthcoming, third studio album “To Die For.” A song about searching for love so true that it is worth dying for, “To Die For” is the perfect anthem for those who have love to give but no one to give it to.

The fourth official single from the unreleased album, “To Die For” is unlike its predecessors. “Dancing with a Stranger,” by Smith and Normani, is an upbeat pop ballad about looking for a rebound and not wanting to be alone after a failed relationship. “How Do You Sleep,” while still about heartbreak and sorrow, is also an uptempo, danceable track, complete with a dance-heavy music video. The third single is a cover of Donna Summer’s 1977 hit “I Feel Love” — perfectly danceable, sensual, and fun. “To Die For,” on the other hand, is a melancholy piano ballad about loneliness and love-searching, more fit for a late night cry than a dance floor.

The song is not a happy one and it is not meant to be. While the other tracks from the album share similar themes of love, loneliness, and heartache, their cheerful composition allows the listener to still feel light. “To Die For,” on the other hand, is heavy. Listeners are meant to sit with and share in Smith’s isolation and withdraw from the world around them in the same way that Smith does in the desolate, lonely world that they build in the song. Smith’s lyrics exemplify yearning in its most intense form. Smith openly admits that they are willing to risk the permanence of death for someone to love.

“To Die For” seems perfectly made for those who are single on the most romantic day of the year. The song successfully crafts an image of walking alone in a world where everyone around you is happy and in love, and wishing for the same for yourself. The chorus “Couples holding hands on a runway / They’re all posing in a picture frame / Whilst my world’s crashing down” embodies the feeling of wanting what others have. The following lyrics, “Solo shadow on a sidewalk,” are simple but continue to build the imagery of walking alone.

Sonically, “To Die For” is simple: Smith sings, soft and dejected, over an uncomplicated piano and minimalistic drumbeat. Rather than relying on complex instrumentals, Smith incorporates an audio clip from the 2001 film “Donnie Darko” throughout “To Die For.” In a conversation with his therapist, Donnie opens the single with the line “It is if everyone dies alone.” His therapist responds, “Does that scare you?” Just as the drumbeat kicks in, Donnie says “I don’t wanna be alone.” This question and response play several times during the song, adding to the forlorn feeling that Smith crafts with their lyrics and tone.

Sam Smith has proven through their body of work that they know how to make music to yearn, hope, and love to. Whether “To Die For,” the title track of their forthcoming album, will be the thematic foundation of the overall LP is unknown. What is clear is that this single leaves listeners longing not only for love, but for the rest of the album.

—Staff writer Annie Harrigan can be reached at annie.harrigan@thecrimson.com.

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