Sam Smith – In The Lonely Hour

Sam Smith - In The Lonely Hour

Sam Smith’s first album In The Lonely Hour recently debuted at #1 in the U.K. and the U.S.

Sam Smith is quickly becoming the internet’s latest person of interest as his album In The Lonely Hour soars to #1 on both sides of the Atlantic and videos of his performances and covers surface, showing off his tremendous vocal abilities. A recent clip of his version of Whitney Houston‘s How Will I Know is currently making the rounds, serving as an excellent supplement to his own material while showing that his talents aren’t the work of in-studio manipulation.

With his skill and British background, it’s only natural that he get compared to Adele, who also gained fame at nearly the same age. Like her album 21, In The Lonely Hour is a soulful album about heartache, but where Adele sang about the experience of an 18-month long relationship, Sam sings from a less-knowledgeable perspective, about a one-night stand with someone who is already taken.

Sam admits to letting his emotions take control over the situation, asking “why am I so emotional?/No, it’s not a good look/gain some self control” in Stay With Me. Later, in Leave Your Lover he pleads with his love interest to “leave him for me”, and “he’ll never love you like I can” in the anthemic Like I Can.

While much of the album consists of slower soul ballads, the strength of Sam’s abilities come when he’s provided additional support with a faster tempo. His first two forays into popularity came as a vocalist on hits for house act Disclosure and deep garage DJ Naughty Boy on Latch and La La La, respectively. Both songs show off his vocals immensely but with thick yet simple beats.

He steps things up a few times on the record with Like I Can, the closest he comes to mimicking Adele’s Rolling In The Deep, and first track Money On My Mind, in which he states his reason for being a singer is for the love, not the money.
The star song, however, is Restart, a deluxe-only track that stands out not only because of its 90’s P.M. Dawn-inspired soul and R&B sound, but also because about trying to move on from heartache. “The truth is I’m better on my own/And I don’t want to live in the past/So let me restart.”

There’s not a lot of imagery in the lyrics but they are carefully written. Nowhere does Sam make any reference to the gender of his love interest. Several weeks prior to the album’s release, he did admit that the songs were written about a male love interest. Knowing that adds a slightly different spin to the lyrics.

Knowing also that he went into the songs without having had a true love experience also changes things. He’s romancing the idea of romance and a broken heart instead of reeling from it. It adds a certain naivety to his words, where he lacks a real connection to what he’s singing about. And it’s the lack of experience that surfaces the record’s weakness.

The songs are too structured and polished. Even though a half dozen producers helped with this record, there isn’t enough variation in Sam’s performance to show that he’s feeling what he’s singing about. He doesn’t stray off script enough to show any sense of adventure or risk and it leaves the words feeling simply present.

Someone with the vocal abilities Sam has should be using them to express a greater sense of emotion than what is present on In This Lonely Hour, but it’s his first outing. He has the attention of the world and with that the opportunity and ability to expand on this record and truly deliver something great.
Three stars

Tracklisting
1. Money On My Mind
2. Good Thing
3. Stay With Me
4. Leave Your Lover
5. I’m Not The Only One
6. I’ve Told You Now
7. Like I Can
8. Life Support
9. Not In That Way
10. Lay Me Down
11. Restart
12. Latch [Acoustic Version]
13. La La La [Naughty Boy featuring Sam Smith]
14. Make It To Me

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