We’ve all heard an artist that sounds exactly like another and typically, we don’t appreciate the tasteful techniques or the vocal tones as much. They aren’t as pleasing or calming or desirable. Yet, the other day, when I listened to a soulful voice like the renowned singer, Sam Smith, it was actually an artist that I had never heard of before. Not only did this pop/soul star surprise me with his similarity to Smith, but he made my ears a little bit happier.
Alfie Arcuri is an Australian vocalist who made a name for himself last year by winning Season 5 of “The Voice” in his native country. After coming out as gay to his fans, he began to feel comfortable within his own surroundings, and ultimately transformed into a new person. While he shares similarities with Smith in his tone and pronunciation of vowels, Arcuri delivers his lyrics in bursts of passion that tell heart-warming stories. Not only are these tales of love and despair meaningful, they also calm every muscle in your body through soothing rhythms of emotional depth.
His album, Zenith, features an accumulation of tracks performed during the competition as well as his own singles that are just too unique to ignore. Even though this album was released last July, his lack of recognition in the United States (and in general) is stunning, and he needs to have a little light shined in his direction.
“Cruel”, the first song in the album, is structured similarly to how Smith begins one of his heartfelt songs- it begins with nearly all of the instrumentals and transitions directly into the first verse.
As humorous as this may sound, the message of this song is sort like the feeling of being tempted with chocolate fudge cake while you’re on a diet. Only here, a gorgeous girl is the cake and the diet is your conscience screaming “she’s evil! Run now!”
The chorus’s message, “You’re dangerous, you know that it’s true/Why you gotta leave me suffering/ Just to keep me coming back again” is delivered with a pleading tone that flips back and forth to a falsetto backed by an array of harmonies on the bass-tenor vocal scale.
In addition to his tone, his style of emphasizing the ‘u’ in cruel is identical to how Smith pronounces his in songs like “I’m Not the Only One.” The real contrast with Arcuri, is that his vowel packs in so much more emphasis and emotion that it strengthens his overall vibe and creates a more pleasing and calming atmosphere than Smith’s do.
When listening to albums from both of these artists, I wanted to find a song of Smith’s that Arcuri covered and as luck would have it, I found a perfect side-by-side comparison.
In the latter part of the competition Arcuri covered Smith’s “Lay Me Down,” which really provided an extra layer of storytelling. Smith began the song by speak-singing as if he was slowly building up to expressing grief, whereas Arcuri’s version immediately gave everything and then five times more.
Smith’s climax was only Arcuri’s starting point and this ultimately helped me get a feel for the surroundings of the song, as well as the ability to visualize myself in his shoes.
I could hear his heart melting inside of him and could visually see his tears coming out of my iPhone; he sounded like he was on the verge of creating a waterfall larger than Victoria Falls. Not to mention his Adam Levine-like head voice which melts like butter.
One final contrast between these artists is the break in their voices. Arcuri’s break between his head voice and his belt is slightly farther along the vocal scale than Smiths, which gives him an edge in the ability to emote touchy songs in a more powerful and skillful manner.
Throughout the remainder of this album, Arcuri covers Zayn Malik’s “Pillowtalk,” Sia’s “Alive,” and James Bay’s “Scars” in his own soulful and crafty way of combining the piano, keyboard, drums, electric guitars, and a touch of synthesizing.
One negative attribute that listeners will find in Zenith is that when it comes to high-energy songs, Arcuri doesn’t have the whole package. This pop singer is really more on the soulful side who tells beautiful stories through emotions instead of fast-paced, vocal power. So for this section of the evaluation chart, Smith takes the point.
If you’re in the market for a pop/soul singer who scores a 10/10 in the storytelling department, then you have found your guy. I am still stunned by the similarities to Smith and the fact that the two are completely different vocalists at the same time. While Arcuri is yet to make a name for himself in the music industry, he definitely sounds like a professional and deserves the recognition of one.