Singer-songwriter Sam Smith paved the way for a major breakthrough when he lent his vocals to Disclosure’s Latch in 2012 and Naughty Boy’s La La La in 2013. Up until that point Smith hadn’t enjoyed any tangible success with his music but that all changed with the release of solo single Money on My Mind in 2014, which shot straight to the top of the UK charts. The success of that single launched follow-up Stay With Me, now considered to be Smith’s signature song, to the top of the charts and debut album In the Lonely Hour went on to sell over 8 million copies worldwide.
Three and a half years after In the Lonely Hour, Smith finally released his eagerly anticipated follow-up The Thrill Of It All. Already certified Platinum in the UK and Gold in the US, it looks like Smith is no flash in the pan or one album wonder. The album’s lead single, Too Good At Goodbyes, was a clever move as the piano ballad is reminiscent of the material Smith has released previously while allowing his voice to shine amidst a gospel backing. Whatever your opinion of Smith, there’s no denying that he’s a damn fine singer and Too Good at Goodbyes allows him to use every aspect of his incredible range.
The Thrill Of It All is an emotional body of work. If you didn’t like In the Lonely Hour, you’re unlikely to give this album much of a chance, as thematically there are very definite similarities. Sonically The Thrill Of It All is a gentler beast allowing Smith’s voice to really shine and it’s undoubtedly his voice that drives the album forward. He has the ability to turn even the most mundane of words into goose-pimple inducing, vibrato filled emotional moments.
Say It First is one of the first moments of optimism on the album as Smith admits to being caught by surprise when a relationship appears to be going the right way. His voice portrays an endearing hope that you can’t help warm to, even when the demons of self-doubt creep into the lyrics. The gospel-influenced HIM sees Smith coming to terms with his sexuality and himself, Palace was co-written with Country star Cam and reflects on the idea that it’s better to have loved and lost than never loved at all, and Pray is a bold realisation that the ignorance of youth doesn’t last forever.
One of the standout moments on the record is No Peace featuring YEBBA. Smith and YEBBA’s voices work wonderfully together as they beg a former lover to give them back the piece of their heart that was taken. It’s a stirring moment and one that should be considered as a single down the line. Scars, which appears on the Special Edition of the album, sees Smith utilising his falsetto to fantastic effect as he delivers a heartfelt message to his parents. You might need a tissue to get through that one.
Smith manages to avoid the difficult second album trap and delivers an album that’s better than his debut. The more stripped-back approach works for him and it allows his voice to shine, which is his best asset. The Thrill Of It All isn’t a barrel of laughs but it’ll make you feel and isn’t that what good music should do? I expect this will sell by the bucketload throughout the next 12 months and it thoroughly deserves to.
Track list: 1. Too Good at Goodbyes 2. Say It First 3. One Last Song 4. Midnight Train 5. Burning 6. HIM 7. Baby, You Make Me Crazy 8. No Peace (feat YEBBA) 9. Palace 10. Pray 11. Nothing Left For You 12. The Thrill Of It All 13. Scars 14. One Day At a Time Record label: Capitol Records Release date: 3rd November 2017