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"I'm Not the Only One" is a song recorded by English singer Sam Smith from their debut studio album, In the Lonely Hour (2014). It was written by Smith with Jimmy Napes, who also produced the song along with Steve Fitzmaurice. Capitol Records released it to digital download on 31 August 2014 as the album's third single in the United Kingdom and on 24 September 2014 as the album's second single in the United States; an alternative version with American rapper A$AP Rocky was also released.
A piano soul ballad, anchored by orchestral strings and a gospel structure, "I'm Not the Only One" deals with themes of infidelity in a relationship and was inspired by a marriage of someone Smith and Napes knew. It received a positive response from critics, who praised their emotional vocals and its instrumentation. Commercially, the song was another success for Smith, becoming a top-three hit in the United Kingdom, a top-five hit in the United States, and a top-ten hit in over ten countries. A music video featuring actors Dianna Agron and Chris Messina was released on 1 August 2014 and it features content similar to the song's lyrics.
Background and release
After the success of previous singles, "Money on My Mind" and "Stay with Me" on the UK Singles Chart - with both becoming number-one singles, while the latter a worldwide hit - Smith announced that "I'm Not the Only One" was going to be the album's third single and that it would be released on 31 August 2014 to digital download in the United Kingdom. They chose the song to be released as a single since it was one of the songs that both their fans and themselves loved. They commented: "I just wanted to bring out a song that is classic and that had longevity to it. If you listen to the record, there's a few songs on there I actually think would be safer bets to go in terms of radio, but I wanted to make a statement. I also want people to know that I'm not just doing it to have big radio hits. I want people to buy into the album and I feel like 'I'm Not the Only One' is an album-seller." On 10 September 2014, a remix version of the song featuring American rapper A$AP Rocky was released worldwide through online music stores. Smith recalled that Zane Lowe called them and left a voice mail on their phone telling them the song was a hip-hop track and that they needed a rapper on it, and inspired them to get a rapper and show a different side of the music. The song was released as the second single in the United States, being serviced first to adult alternative radio on 24 September 2014 and later on 1 October 2014 to hot adult contemporary and contemporary hit radio. In Brazil, the song was part of the international soundtrack to the telenovela Babilônia (2015).
The song found further fame when performed as part of a "mash-up" with Ed Sheeran's "Thinking Out Loud" by Edinburgh's critically acclaimed Voice of the Town
"I'm Not the Only One" was written by Sam Smith with Jimmy Napes, who was also responsible for the song's production along with Steve Fitzmaurice. The latter also recorded and mixed the song at The Pierces Room, London, while the song's strings were arranged and conducted by Simon Hale. The piano-led, marching midtempo soul ballad has strings, drums, piano, percussion, bass guitar and guitar as its main instrumentation with a gospel structure. According to the sheet music published at Musicnotes.com by Universal Music Publishing Group, the song is composed in the key of F major with a tempo of 82 beats per minute. Smiths's vocals range from the note of F3 to C5. They admitted that they recorded the song when they were hungover, calling their vocals "hungover vocals". As Smith explained in a track-by-track commentary for Digital Spy, "Napes played the chords one day and I was obsessed with them. We wrote a completely different song on top of those chords and it wasn't very good, so we scrapped it. Then two weeks later, I just loved the chords so we returned to them, and then we wrote 'I'm Not The Only One' in like an hour."
Lyrically, "I'm Not the Only One" talks about infidelity and betrayal in a relationship, where someone decides to stay with a partner they know is cheating on them. In the chorus, Smith admits: "You say I'm crazy/'Cause you don't think I know what you've done/But when you call me baby/I know I'm not the only one". Smith revealed to Lewis Corner that the song was the only one on the album that is not about their life, but a marriage they observed first-hand, where they put themselves into the woman's shoes. They added:
It came really naturally! The person I wrote it with, we both knew them and we just vibed off each other. We both had really strong opinions on what the woman was doing. It's quite a complex song. When you listen to it you think it's just bashing a guy for cheating, but it's not, it actually talks more about how the woman's a mug. She knows she's not the only one, but she's never going to leave. I think that's wrong.
The song received positive reviews from most music critics. Harley Brown of Billboard praised the track, calling it "[t]he first turning point of the record [...] where Smith goes home, dries off, and picks himself back up." Brown also added that "[t]he violins surging behind the breakdown are so high-pitched they practically sting." Lily Moayeri of The A.V. Club calling it one of the album's driving forces, noting that it "illustrates this with sophisticated piano and escalating strings." Ryan Lathan of PopMatters observed that "the charming 'I'm Not the Only One' confidently struts out from the rest of the set. An obvious candidate for future single, it's the type of track that elicits head bobbing and finger snapping the second it begins." Jon Dolan of Rolling Stone called it "gorgeously bruising", while Andy Kellman of AllMusic picked it as one of the album's best tracks. Eric Davidson of CMJ thought that "[t]he Al Green vibe of 'I'm Not The Only One' has a verging-on-stern sentiment couched in a deeper groove that seems like a good direction Smith could head in."
In his review for Consequence of Sound, Sheldon Pearce called it "a two-stepping delight despite its somber tone." Adam Workman of The National noted that the song "really stands out among hackneyed lyrical content on love and longing; his high-pitched vocal extremes and fairly basic grasp of rhyming couplets both soon begin to rankle, too." Ben Kelly of Attitude opined that the song is "the album's bluesy moment" [...] "echo[ing] of Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay, with Sam's strong falsetto running free as ever." Maeve Heslin of Hot Press labelled it "laidback, funky soul at its finest." Paul Cantor of Vibe praised the song's "lush and expansive" arrangements, called it a "notably highlight" and noting that it is "brought to life by Smith's clever vocal arpeggiations and phrasings." Rachel Sonis of Idolator defined it as "a jazzy, soothing, coffee shop-ready number that sticks to the album's 'quiet moments in life' theme", noting similarities to Adele's melancholic approach and praising the song for "show[ing] off his precious pipes more than ever before."
Following the success of their breakthrough single "Stay with Me", "I'm Not the Only One" found chart success in several countries. In the United Kingdom, the song entered the UK Singles Chart at number ninety-three, when the album was released on the week of 1 June 2014, before it re-entered at number sixty-nine on the week of 10 August 2014. It kept climbing the charts in the following weeks until it reached a peak of number three on the week of 14 September 2014. By reaching number three, the song became the album's third top-three hit for the singer, whose last two singles from the album reached number-one. In Ireland, the song reached number six, becoming their third top-ten hit. In Europe, the song also reached the top-ten in Denmark, Italy and Netherlands.
In the United States, "I'm Not the Only One" shared similar success. It debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 at number sixty-nine, during the same week where "Stay with Me" was in the top-ten and "Latch" was reaching the top-twenty. It later reappeared at number ninety-three, and within four weeks the song climbed to number twenty-five, becoming that week's biggest gain in digital sales. The following week, the song reached number twenty, marking their fastest flight to the top-twenty (seven weeks) among his four entries. Four weeks later, the song climbed to number nine, thus earning Smith their third top-ten single in the same year (2014). With three top ten singles, Smith became the only male to achieve the feat in 2014 and the third overall artist with the most top ten singles of 2014, along with Iggy Azalea, who also scored three, and behind Ariana Grande, who had four. It eventually peaked at number five, becoming their second top-five hit.
In Australia, the song failed to reach the top-ten by one position, reaching its peak at number eleven, ending their streak of consecutive top-five singles, but in New Zealand the song peaked at number three, earning their second consecutive top-three single. In both countries, the song was certified 2x platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association and the Recorded Music NZ respectively. In Brazil, the song was their first top-forty hit, reaching its peak at number thirty-nine. The song was also successful in South Africa, where it reached the top of the charts, and South Korea, where the song peaked at number two.
Dianna Agron plays the part of a scorned bride in the music video.
The official music video for "I'm Not the Only One" was directed by Luke Monaghan, who also worked with Smith on the video for "Leave Your Lover", and it was filmed in Los Angeles on 8 July 2014. The music video features Glees Dianna Agron as a scorned bride and The Mindy Projects Chris Messina as the cause of and cure for her heartache. As Smith revealed: "I'm a huge fan of both of them. I thought I had my dream team around me." Agron revealed that she "tweeted Sam a long time ago and told him how important it was that I discovered his music. He tweeted me back, and we started messaging each other. Then the video happened, and we've become friends." Also featured is actress Christina Elise as the mistress. Smith also claimed they wanted to "bring the song to life a bit more'" and "strike a nerve with a certain group of people". It was released to Smith's YouTube/VEVO channel on 1 August 2014.
The cycle of infidelity is the main theme of both the video and the song. It starts with a shot of the couple's house with Agron telling Messina that she made him breakfast, but he says he is in too much of a rush to eat it. She walks him out, and then he goes straight to a bar and does shots with his mistress, while Agron's character drinks alcohol and pieces together her husband's indiscretions. While Smith performs in the saloon, Agron proceeds to uncork a bottle of white wine in the middle of her neighbourhood liquor store, drink away her problems, and then eventually set fire to Messina's possessions. At the end of the video, she welcomes him back home as if nothing had happened.
As of March 2019, the video has received over 1.1 billion views.