Sam Smith returns with powerful, soulful album

‘The Thrill of It All’ showcases Smith’s classic style, smooth vocals

ae-SamSmith-CourtesyCapitolRecords

In his latest album, Smith balances his new look with a blend of old sound.

Courtesy Capitol Records

Released Nov. 3, Sam Smith’s new album, titled “The Thrill of It All,” was much anticipated by fans and followers. Smith’s first and most recent album, “In The Lonely Hour,” debuted all the way back on May 26, 2014 in the U.K. and June 17 of the same year in the United States. Following an abundance of nominations and award wins, vocal surgery interrupted his 2015 tour. Since then, the song “Too Good At Goodbyes” was released on Sept. 8 in anticipation of this latest album.

“Thrill of It All” does not stray from Smith’s typical musical persona. His melancholic, romantic songs paired with his smooth tone and wide vocal range are a perfect match. Hits from “In The Lonely Hour,” which made him famous, such as “Stay With Me,” and “I’m Not The Only One” marked his musical style as wonderfully sad and brutally honest. 

The nearly 50-minute long deluxe album boasts 14 songs, three of which were released prior to revealing the full album. The opening track “Too Good At Goodbyes” was released as the first single prior to the album, and builds with snapping and a chorus in the background. This song gives listeners a taste for what to expect in the album — dynamic background vocals and powerful musicality.

“Pray” was released next. This song is emotional and soulful; Smith engages with the accompanying chorus, adding to the piece’s high energy. A Timbaland collaboration, this second single is clearly influenced by his production instincts. The combination of Smith, the violins and the chorus is flawlessly balanced.

“Burning” was the third single released and is most reminiscent of Smith’s ordinary lovelorn subject matter. Perhaps too similar to his older hits, Smith may have missed the mark with this song. The soft piano and likewise soft-toned crooning is not reflective of other songs on the album, which seem to diverge from his normal work.

Arguably his most impressive talent as an artist, Smith’s low-to-high range is highlighted throughout the album. “One Last Song,” “HIM,” “Baby, You Make Me Crazy” and “Nothing Left For You” are notable arrangements that highlight this talent. “HIM” is the most intimate and expressive track. Smith sings about the intersection of love and religion, defending his sexuality in conversation with God. A chillingly soul-filled song, it once again features the chorus that backs Smith throughout the album. The haunting lyrics, “Don’t you try and tell me that God doesn’t care for us / It is him I love. It is him I love,” are evidence of the compelling sound and meaningful language coming out of this piece in particular, as well as throughout the album. 

Smith channels a range of personal experiences, changing the mood throughout the duration of the album. He begins with sharing painful independence in “Too Good At Goodbyes,” moving on to heartbreak in “One Last Song,” lighthearted recovery in “Baby, You Make Me Crazy” and bringing it back down with the namesake ballad “The Thrill of It All.” 

“Scars” and “One Day At A Time” end the album on a mellow, hopeful note. “Scars” seems to be specifically dedicated to his family. The mild guitar and echoed sounds make it a well-rounded piece to begin wrapping up the album. “One Day At A Time” is musically similar, both mellow and whimsical, as Smith ends the album with a more heartening love song.

Smith balances his new look with a blend of old sound; his voice is as fresh and precise as before but the new album reaches new levels of maturity. Overall, “The Thrill of It All” meets expectations and exceeds them only in special cases.

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