Sam Smith won the hearts of the world over with their 2014 album In the Lonely Hour. Smith has a sultry, powerful voice, one that can make a listener experience the exact emotions Smith is singing about. Songs like “Stay with Me,” “I’m Not the Only One” and “Lay Me Down” are classic pop ballads that remain popular six years later.
From addressing their sexuality and gender identity to discussing body image issues, Smith has become a beacon of hope for many struggling with the same issues. In the five years between their first studio album and the release of Smith’s 2020 album Love Goes, Smith has established themself as both an icon in the music industry as well as an outspoken public figure.
Smith’s Love Goes is a well-timed album about the cruelty of the world around them. Smith actually initially planned for the album to be named To Die For but changed the title after taking the global pandemic into consideration. The album addresses heartbreak, difficult memories and the general pain in the world.
Smith starts the album on a strong note with the acapella track “Young,” which gives their unbelievable vocals a chance to shine through without being overshadowed by any backing tracks. Smith sings wistfully about wanting to “Get a little wild, get a little high, kiss a hundred boys and not feel like I’m tied to them.” The song is a reflection on their youth and realizing that they do not deserve to be judged off the things they did as a young person in the public eye.
From this point on, unfortunately, the album loses its momentum. Smith tangles the thread, shifting from a synthy pop track to a slow ballad over and over again. There is very little consistency throughout the record, which is something that Smith’s In the Lonely Hour didn’t struggle with, on the other hand. It seems as if Smith is split between wanting to experiment with upbeat dance tracks and wanting to stick to their signature crooning vocals on top of piano instrumentals. While experimenting with new sounds is something that every maturing artist should feel entitled to do, this type of stark contrast in sounds on the same record ends up making the album feel confusing and directionless.
The strongest tracks on the record tend to be the ones that most closely resemble Smith’s first album. “Love Goes,” featuring Labrinth, is a catchy, slow song that shows off the strength of both artists’ vocals. “For The Lover That I Lost” is a heart-wrenching ballad that reminisces about an old love. Those tracks could have easily fit on In the Lonely Hour, and they’re proof that maybe Smith’s strongest sound is the one they’ve been using since the beginning.
The five bonus tracks at the end of the album also throw off the balance of the record. Three of the songs (“Dancing With A Stranger,” “How Do You Sleep?” and “I’m Ready”) are huge radio hits that sound over-produced. It’s clear they were added to the end of the album simply to boost its popularity, and they simply don’t fit into the rest of the tracks. Smith should have just decided to end the album on “Kids Again,” a simple, sweet song that brings the album full-circle to the idea of youth that Smith introduces in “Young” at the beginning.
The album is clear evidence that Smith is continuing to change with every project they put out. While they have a lot of trial and error to go through to discover what sound works best for them, Smith is an undeniable vocal powerhouse who will likely continue to shine in the music industry for years to come.
Daily Arts Writer Gigi Ciulla can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.