After an 18-month hiatus following a string of emotional Billboard hits, Sam Smith is back in the spotlight. The lead single, ‘Too Good at Goodbyes’, has already dominated night-time radios and multiple playlists titled “Future Hits.” Smith’s commanding falsettos coupled with a simple tune and a choir backed chorus makes for a formidable song that you’re bound to hear everywhere.
For this album, Smith has called in the big guns to take up the producer’s job. James Ho a.k.a Maylay, who has worked on Say It First and Midnight Train, is also credited with producing the majority of Frank Ocean’s debut Channel Orange. Emily Haynie, another producer, has previously successfully worked with Kanye West and Lana Del Rey.
Simple ballads like ‘Say It First’, ‘The Thrill of it All’, ‘Scars’, ‘Palace’ and ‘One Day at a Time’ are spread out evenly across the entire album. The lightweight piano pieces, strummy guitar sounds and the sad lyrics all melt into the background as Sam Smith’s vocals take center stage.
But outshining them all is the track titled ‘Burning’, in which the instruments offer a light support as Smith leads the way with his beautiful falsettos. This bunch of songs risk sounding repetitive if you’re not paying close attention.
‘One Last Song’ and ‘Baby, You Make Me Crazy’ are the chirpier ones of the lot, with steady drums and an upbeat rhythm. It’s a weird feeling when you’re cheerfully bobbing along to lyrics that go, “You made me sad till I loved the shade of blue.”
Basically, Sam Smith decided that we’re all just going to happily sing about how sad we are, and that’s what happens in these tracks.
‘Pray’ and ‘Nothing Left for You’ are the designated rebels- they distinctly depart from the rest of the album in sound. Produced by Timbaland, Pray has a recognisable hip-hop base beat, which occasionally shows up in ‘Nothing Left For You’ as well. With songs like ‘Pray’, if you’re not loyal to the lyrics and listening to them, they might not capture you the way they should.
‘Midnight Train’ and ‘Him’, however, are devoid of any such risks. A self-confident track with plenty of sparkle, catchy drum beats and steady pace, ‘Midnight Train’ is the track most likely to worm its way into your playlist.
However, ‘Him’ is the song that should be on your playlist. Charged lyrics, imposing vocals paired with a rousing chorus depicting loud proclamations of love, this song is a beauty from start to finish. With this album, Sam Smith only strengthens his reputation as a talented singer who knows the keys to your heart.
Some tracks sound like you’ve heard them before, while some can totally blow you away. As Smith himself said, this is the album you drink with at the end of a long day. It drips of loneliness, longing and heartache, reassuring the universal nature of these problems. All the while, it sounds pretty damn good too.