Flawlessly executed vocals and lyrics drenched with soul and passion make up Sam Smith’s new album, “In the Lonely Hour.” Recognized for his powerful voice that pours meaning into every syllable, Smith has turned from singing catchy, fun pop to heart-wrenching ballads and redefined his place in the music industry.
Smith’s voice sets him apart from similar artists. It flows like honey and oozes emotion. Whenever he sings, it is just so honest. His vocals are best showcased in “Stay With Me,” the hit single that peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100. The gospel chorus proves that Smith has a wide vocal range and can pull off any musical style.
One of his less popular songs, “Lay Me Down,” is angelic. The unique ensemble is something one would expect to hear in a Broadway musical, further proving his versatility. Smith hits each note effortlessly; the control and power he has over his voice is amazing, considering how many other artists of the same genre cannot perform live without vocal difficulties.
Most of today’s pop music relies heavily on Auto-Tune and a catchy beat, and the lyrics are rarely given much thought. However, Smith’s songs are beautiful not only because of his sweet voice and stunning accompaniments, but also due to the thoughtful lyrics that capture the essence of love and heartbreak. Smith sings so convincingly about these topics; he has admitted that this album is about a man he loved who didn’t return his feelings. In the hit song “I’m Not the Only One,” Smith sings: “For months on end I’ve had my doubts/Denying every tear/I wish this would be over now/But I know that I still need you here.” The song, from the perspective of a woman being cheated on by her husband, honestly portrays how the woman is unable to let go of the relationship even though he broke her heart. One of my favorites is “Leave Your Lover,” a relatable ballad about pining for someone who’s taken.
The music that accompanies Smith’s voice is just as stunning. My absolute favorite track on the album is “Good Thing.” After classical violins kickstart the ballad, an acoustic guitar is revealed. This startling contrast brings more depth to the song, and when the violins return halfway through, it shocks the listeners and draws them in. Additionally, the lyrics, which address releasing feelings associated with unrequited love, fit in perfectly with the tone of the music.
Of course, the album has its downsides. The out-of-place “Restart,” a failed attempt at an upbeat dance track, just didn’t provide the emotion and depth I was looking for. Smith’s Naughty Boy collaboration on a similar song titled “La La La” is also included on this album. I do not understand the need to include a song that has already been released and does not resemble most of the album.
“In the Lonely Hour” makes up for these disappointments, however, by including pieces that are perfect in every way. I adored the acoustic version of “Latch” because I could sense purpose and feeling in Smith’s voice that was nonexistent in the original single. Also, “Money on My Mind” is an ingenious addition, because although it is also a catchy, upbeat pop song, it works in ways that “La La La” and “Restart” do not. The sincerity that seeps through this single makes me fall in love with Sam Smith all over again.
Smith does not receive the recognition he deserves. Hopefully, this wonderful artist will one day be acknowledged as an equal to pop legends like Madonna and Lady Gaga. Sam Smith will continue to captivate his audience with soulful singing and heartfelt lyrics for ages.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.