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Sam Smith Bares His Soul On “The Thrill Of It All”

thetimes.co.uk

“The Thrill Of It All” is the highly anticipated second album from U.K. singer and songwriter Sam Smith, which was released on 3rd of November through Capitol Records. This LP follows the highly successful debut “In The Lonely Hour” which not only sold 12 million copies world wide, it walked away with four Grammy’s including Best Pop Vocal Album and “Stay with Me” winning Song of the Year. In an interview with Billboard magazine Smith spoke to the new album saying “I went through, like, this vortex, came out, I feel like I’ve rebuilt myself as a stronger thing and I’m just gonna go into the vortex again, I wasn’t trying to make a big pop record when I made this album. I was actually just trying to make something personal and like a diary.”

On September 8th, the first single for the album was released called “Too Good At Goodbyes”, which topped the UK charts and peaked in the top five of the Billboard 100. It has since has gotten over 120 million YouTube plays since its release as a single, and establishes the formula for album, one which Smith confessed to a New York times journalist were provoked by the collapse of a five-month relationship. Having come off a debut album that without a doubt won the title for album of the year, big things are expected for his second effort.

If you’re not paying attention to “The Thrill of It All” as it plays, you might assume he’s gone from soul to bluegrass,  but his old familiar sounds still linger. His vocals are also at there flawless best as his versatility not only show cases his falsetto, but he manages to shine a more baritone sound making him pop’s most heavenly limbo artist. Comparisons to fellow Brit and longtime pal Adele are inevitable: Both have the most vocally the best classical style vocals yet still somehow manage to be dominant artists in this generation with there wonderful slow melodic tracks. They also managed to sweep the Grammy’s in their respective breakout years.

“Too Good At Goodbyes” didn’t immediately become a household smash hit in fact it sort of hit the charts quietly and didn’t manage to steam roll through the charts like Smith’s previous hits. The song relies quite heavily on the piano, while it adds a choir when it get’s deep into song, screaming out that it’s so Sam Smith but at the same time not becoming a shining light, like his debut single “Stay With Me”. The record may be, first and foremost, a master class in white R&B, but doesn’t contain as much soul as his debut album “In The Lonely Hour”. You may think that too much sadness could make for a terrible listen, yet there’s enough variety to the ballads that by the time 10 songs have passed it feels like Smith’s lived up to that Grammy crown he recently earned last year. If you keep waiting for that sound that’ll bring back memories of that Sam Cooke vibe, well you’ll be waiting a long time because it’s the element I feel is missing off this LP.

One of the most uncommon appearances on this album I didn’t expect was the production from Timbaland on the song “Pray”. Smith seems to find some kind of comfort with religion on this album as even the track “Him” explores his identity as a gay man, a topic which he largely left out of his songwriting til now. It’s an intense tale that describes Smith walking hand in hand with his lover through the streets of Mississippi, a state whose famous intolerance was immortalized by female singer Nina Simone. So it’s clear to see Smith has formed some kind of civil rights anthem. Smith’s voice remains a thing of wonder throughout, on the old soul-styled “One Last Song”, he sweeps smoothly into it vocally and evokes a more genuine emotional connection with his listeners. “Burning” enriches his ability to go from chorus styled vocals to a heavier vibrato that give the song a more gospel flavor.

“The Thrill of It All” is easily one of the best Soul/Pop albums of the year, and not just because it’s so brilliantly delivered both lyrically and musically, it’s because like “In The Lonely Hour” we are sent into a world of emotionally driven ballads that have us feeling the same things Smith did when he experienced them. Although I think that real deep soul presence is something that’s definitely missing, we are still delivered an honest, heart broken world, and this split may count as having created the greatest love of all.

“The Thrill Of It All” is available on ITunes now.

Rating: 3/5

“The Thrill Of It All” tracklist:

  1. Too Good at Goodbyes
  2. Say it First
  3. One Last Song
  4. Midnight Train
  5. Burning
  6. Him
  7. Baby, You Make Me Crazy
  8. No Peace (feat. YEBBA)
  9. Palace
  10. Pray
  11. Nothing Left for You
  12. The Thrill of it All
  13. Scars
  14. One Day at a Time

 

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