Making the transition from “pleasant voice on big producer’s track” to “sustainable artist” is tricky, a path paved by names like Chris Willis (one of David Guetta’s early collaborators) and the Martha Walsh (the voice of C+C Music Factory’s “I’ve Got The Power” and one half of The Weather Girls, the duo behind “It’s Raining Men”). Artists like Sia (a unique case, considering her critical and commercial achievements as part of Zero 7) show that a successful transitionĀ canĀ be made after years of hit-writing, hook-singing, and occasionally semi-anonymous top-lining. Skylar Grey provides an example of the struggle, selling impressive units by independent standards (28,000 copies of her debut album in its first two weeks), but hardly world-beating by the measure of the major label pushing her career.

Sam Smith may be closer in nature to Chris Willis than Skylar Grey, but he’s already making all the right moves to solidify himself as something more than the guy with powerful voice from Disclosure‘s “Latch.” With debut single “Lay Me Down,” Smith showed he was capable of carrying a song (and a very different type of song, at that) on the merits of his own voice and songwriting. “Safe With Me” sees him moving a bit closer to slightly more comfortable territory for Disclosure fans, delivering yet another powerful performance over Two Inch Punch’s skittering, evocative production. Another winner for the emergent Brit building a name and brand of his own.

(Listen Before You Buy)