Lauren Spencer Smith at Heaven review: pure Gen Z pop elevated by candour and emotional clout


I hadn’t been to Heaven since before lockdown. It’s bigger than I remember, probably because last night, the room was absolutely rammed. Twenty-something girls, their gay acolytes, and the odd dutiful boyfriend had the hottest ticket in town.

Lauren Spencer Smith is a 19-year-old singer-songwriter from Vancouver Island. She became a sudden star this year after her self-released song Fingers Crossed reached the top 20 in most major music markets, including top 10 in the UK. She’s still a fledgling artist, her current work an assortment of perfectly pleasant pop music: unprovocative and listenable. To see her live, though, is another story.

The singer is an ebullient character; her Instagram bio, “19 & talk too much”, hits the nail on the head. Not that her talking too much was in any way unwelcome on the evidence seen at Heaven: she’s quick and witty and her relationship with fans is warm and conversational - and it seemed everyone in the room was a fan, as they belted her lyrics in unison whenever she handed over the mic.

It helps that Spencer Smith’s lyrics are snappy and eminently quotable: “She’s only 28, she probably just had her first high school reunion,” she sings of her father’s new girlfriend, after he lied saying she was 30. In between songs, Smith got candid about her parents’ divorce: “It’s November and I’m already stressed about spending Christmas with both families,” she confessed before launching into the unreleased track, Single On the Twenty Fifth. The song earned as many cheers as Smith’s throwaway mention of her boyfriend earned groans earlier, which says everything about last night’s demographic but also about Smith’s knack for reading a room.

“You guys win the award for loudest crowd,” she laughed, getting more comfortable and wholesome as she gave shoutouts to her family, including her UK-based grandparents, up on the balcony. She also joked about with those holding up humorous banners. “Tell my ex he’s a narcissist!” one said.

Spencer Smith is pure Gen Z pop, yet her candour and the emotional resonance of her voice carry far beyond that. Her voice has bell-like clarity, every song was rendered with a full tone and perfect pitch, typical of a former American Idol contestant (she placed in the top 20 in the 2020 competition). And with a couple of stunning duets, including Flowers, a standout with co-producer Cian Ducrot, her vocal gymnastics were lent genuine artistic credibility.

With punk flair, the brilliant live band helped Spencer Smith toe the line between commercial pop and indie rock. She’s been likened to Taylor Swift, inevitably, but her performance had more bite than the blonde Pennsylvanian could ever muster at 19. Live, Spencer Smith elevated her digestible pop to loftier heights. “Who the f*** is perfect?” she sang. Last night, Lauren, it was very nearly you.