Sam Smith leads vocal-driven pop
Sam Smith has been singing for years, and people have known him for a little while. But he is really striving this past year.
While Sam Smith’s music is mainly concerned with matters of the heart, he’s not immune to the chaos going on around him. Namely our collective grief at the dumpster fire that is 2017. The crooner taps into that universal feeling of despair on “Pray,” a buzz track from his sophomore LP. Produced by Timbaland and long-time producer Jimmy Napes, the second taste of The Thrill Of It All is a curious hybrid of gospel and R&B that takes the Brit into previously uncharted territory.
“I’m young and I’m foolish, I’ve made bad decisions,” Sam begins the track over piano and spluttering beat. “I block out the news, turn my back on religion.” The song builds from there, becoming darker and more dramatic. “You won’t find me in church (no) reading the bible (no),” he sings in a later verse. “I am still here and I’m still your disciple.” It all comes together in the choir-backed chorus. “Maybe I’ll pray. I’ve never believed, and you know, but I’m gonna pray.” (Idolater)
If “In the Lonely Hour” was the myopic look into the heart of a boy helplessly in love, then the new album, “The Thrill of It All,” is about a man who turns his gaze outward. “Midnight Train” is a sad song about ending a relationship that was inspired by friends; “Palace,” a sad song about whether or not love is worth it if it ends; “HIM,” a sad story of an imagined boy in Mississippi coming out to his father. Some of the tracks are about Mr. Smith himself, including “Burning,” a sad song about pining for a man who has left; and “One Last Song,” a sad final ode to the man who was the subject of “In the Lonely Hour.” The new album won’t be a surprise to anyone familiar with the first one: The old-timey soul is still there. Mr. Smith decided long ago that his voice was the instrument: melisma, whispered baritones, surprise out-of-nowhere ultra-high falsetto, even a haunting, beautiful croak of longing sprinkled here and there. It is still prime music for “having sex with your sadness,” as Mr. Smith said.
Once I got into Sam's music, I equated him to the male version of Adele. His vocal power is insane as is his songwriting and storytelling gift. He delivers every song and it is really something special in the music industry. There's no denying it. Sam's here to stay.