I almost wrote that Sam Tompkins' latest single, "See Me," was "confessional." This is not an invalid description for the highly-revealing, heart-on-your-sleeve writing he decorates its walls with. I mean, the very first line ("I've never been confident,") sounds an awful lot like a confession. Yet, I find myself a little unsatisfied with that interpretation—as though it's selling the song short of its nuance and consideration. Instead, I'd say there is something more expressive about the way the UK-based artist presents insecurity, shame, and fear. You can hear it in the sound: an acoustic pop ballad with subtle shifts and additions that bring drastic impact. Two minutes into the track, gorgeous strings slowly emerge to lift Tompkins exquisite vocals into the clouds. The emotion comes across most clearly, however, through Tompkins delivery. He cleverly builds from a restrained start until he's practically spitting out the words, like they hurt to say more than they did on the page. When "See Me" ends on a sparse, lofi rendition of the chorus, isolation is the loudest instrument.
Tompkins' lyricism is like a flurry of swift punches to the gut. His most arresting lines are concise ("I hate myself, but I do it in private"), knocking the wind out of you before you've even processed them. "See Me" is like a tell-all memoir for the guilt-ridden insecurity we hold deep inside ourselves. Tompkins wilts on the chorus: "what if you see me the way that I see me?" It sounds less like a question and more of an explanation; he expresses the self-consciousness that contextualizes his reservedness. These nuances elevate "See Me" from a merely diaristic ballad. In place of platitudes, Tompkins inserts a humanity and consideration. "I owe an apology to the kid that I was when I was young," he laments. He carries a heavy burden, one that "See Me" does not attempt to overcome. Instead, Tompkins invites us into the deepest shadows with no reprieve in sight. It's a bold move—one that, in the hands of a lesser artist, might devolve into slog. But the alt pop singer/songwriter lightens these strains by opening up about them; it's an unspoken hope to be seen with depth and clarity.
Sam Tompkins is a UK-based artist capturing lightning in a bottle with his expressionist alt pop. He gained traction for his 2021 collaboration with Jnr Choi, "To The Moon" (which has accumulated over 200 million streams on Spotify. Tompkins EP, who do you pray to, landed in the top 10 of the UK album charts upon release last year. Garnering cosigns from the likes of Fred Again, Sam Smith, Bebe Rexha, and Drake, as well as being sampled by Nicki Minaj, there's an undeniable energy behind Tompkins' rising stardom. "See Me" follows a series of singles teasing towards the artist's debut album, set to be released later this year.
Written By Andy Mockbee
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