Sam Smith has been drip feeding us snippets of his début album, In The Lonely Hour, over the past twelve months, and for some of us, it has been a long time coming. Since emerging into the mainstream as a very talented featured artist joining Disclosure on their breakthrough single ‘Latch’, the country have sat up and started paying attention to the 22 year old from London. Naughty Boy’s ‘La La La’ was the next track that featured Smith’s incredible voice, although still a featured artist, his voice was becoming a staple in the pop music scene. Topping the BBC’s Sound of 2014 and winning The Brits Critics Choice award in the same year added fuel to a fire that had been on the back-burner for quite some time. Coming in at number one with ‘Money On My Mind’ removed Smith from the bubble of being ‘only a featured artist’ and, as predicted by the industry, Smith is now in the midst of a stratospheric rise to fame; I can’t think of anyone more deserving of it either.
In The Lonely Hour has undoubtedly come under scrutiny for failing to break the mould set by the likes of heavyweight vocalists Adele and Emeli Sande, in fact every review I’ve read so far draws these predictable comparisons. Smith’s voice has equal soul, power and passion to the two aforementioned artists, but it is completely unique. It gets right under the skin, in the best way possible.
‘Money on my Mind’ opens the record and it is miles apart from the rest of the album in terms of genre. Produced by Two Inch Punch it is a snappy and effective, delicious, infectious pop song. The honest, meta lyrics about being signed to a label and becoming another cog in the songwriting money making machine are perfectly executed.
Smith has been releasing versions of the tracks from the album here and there over the past few months, and these are now familiar favourites for fans. The real excitement comes in the form of the previously unheard tracks, as well as these demos blossoming into beautifully produced, finished songs. I’m pleased to say, Smith doesn’t hit any bum notes.
The grand orchestral opening of ‘Good Thing’ sounds like Smith has stepped right off the back of a movie set. Imagine rolling hills, birds singing, lovers skipping, and then allow that to melt away as Smith comes in with the lyrics; he hits you right in the feelings as you think ‘blimey, that sounds familiar’. ‘Like I Can’ is dangerously similar to Adele’s ‘Set Fire to The Rain’ with progressive guitar strums opening the track, but luckily it turns into another fantastic pop-come-gospel belter held together by the glue of Smith’s passionate vocals. ‘Restart’ has a Luther Vandross disco vibe. Co-written with Radio 1’s Zane Lowe, it’s very well put together and could be a successful commercial track to show another side of Smith to the buying public. It’s one of the more upbeat tracks on the record showing off Smith’s falsetto in a different setting, putting to shame those that say he’s not a diverse artist.
Smith recently went to Paris with model and actress Daisy Lowe to record a music video for the heart wrenching ‘Leave Your Lover’. Even without the beautifully shot video, Smith tells the story of this track with clarity and desperate passion. ‘Not In That Way’ is another ballad that, not only tugs at the heart-strings, it tears them to pieces with emotion with the familiar story of, to put it colloquially, being friend-zoned. Smith ‘finds himself singing the blues’ in the most beautiful and passionate way. ‘I’m Not The Only One’, a personal favourite, is a track for all the liars and the cheats to listen to and be shamed by Smith’s penetrating falsetto. It’s a track that is a big ‘fuck you’ to the cheaters of the world, but one that shows how Smith is now much better without these people. Even if they aren’t biographical, Smith sings them with the emotion to make you believe they are. ‘I’ve Told You Know’ is another sassy and steady number, with orchestral moments that elevate it from the previously heard acoustic version of the track.
This fearlessly vulnerable selection of songs showcases Smith’s knack for capturing ‘those quiet moments in life.’ Tales of unrequited love are executed with a precision and passion that make them completely and utterly believable. Never will you hear the words, “I’m so reliant, I’m so dependent, I’m such a fool’ sang so beautifully and convincingly.