Sam Smith has a powerfully soulful voice built for stardom. At only the ripe age of 22 years young, Smith has managed to score himself a hit single with collaborations from Disclosure on the danceable track, “Latch,” has won a couple of accolades for being an exceptionally talented rising star from British critic organizations, and has released his first proper album, In The Lonely Hour, via Capitol Records. His intense studies of vocal theory with jazz vocalist Joanna Eden and with the help from his extremely supportive mother, Smith has catapulted himself into the top pop charts in the UK and is destined to breakthrough beyond his home country if he takes more risks with his music and keep pouring his heart out.
The cover for In The Lonely Hour shows Smith pensively sitting, his hands latched together supporting his head, seemingly full of worries. Smith has said that this album was inspired by unrequited love and his first love. The opening track, “Money on My Mind,” is about unrequited love, but not for a human. It is about the passion for making music that supersedes any monetary achievement. Smith sings “when I signed my deal / I felt pressure / don’t wanna see the numbers / I wanna see heaven.” The fast-paced drumming keeps the momentum going while Smith employs a falsetto at perfect pitch mixed with a gentle croon until the chorus kicks in and then you can’t help but join in even though you don’t sound an eighth as good as Smith. His voice pulls you from any stupor you were in into a whirlwind of emotion.
“Good Thing” is a good song with a good opener. The orchestral arrangement crescendos into a palm-muted guitar riff that is followed by Smith’s breathy vocals to give it that intimate feel. This track has a pessimistic view on love that eventually begins to wane. We begin to see the love fall apart before our eyes through his words. “Stay With Me” is a song about Smith’s yearning to take his one night stand’s affection from play to something more serious. The gospel chorus is where the track picks up into a love-affirming “cause you’re all I need. “Leave Your Lover” continues to showcase Smith’s humble and sensitive nature when he wishes for nothing but for the one he loves to leave his lover. His romanticized view of life portrayed in his songs is what everyone wants deep down. We want a relationship that cures-all, but life isn’t like that.
“Lay Me Down” sounds straight out of a musical and might be Smith’s best effort on his album. Slowing down and picking up at just the right moments, Smith’s vocals perpetuate the emotional drain from the unrequited love that tears him inside. The sparse pianos accentuate the lack of a rhythm section in the beginning but the marching band drums come in an explosive climax. The album closes off with a few bonus tracks which includes an acoustic version of “Latch,” “La La La,” the track in which he collaborated with British producer Naughty Boy and reached the number 1 spot in the UK charts.
Smith is without a doubt the male Adele of our generation. He has an uncanny ability to twist and turn his voice from a soft whisper into a piercing high falsetto unlike many singers out there. He amazed everyone on his SNL debut and continues to fill the soul and gospel gap in the music industry. He has featured in dance numbers and slow-burners. The question is will his talent be enough or will be require more risky instrumentation in order to be considered “original.” That question might never be answered but we will be satiated with his relatable and inspiring words and talent, respectively.