Album Review: Sam Smith — The Thrill of It All

Monday, October 30, 2017

Sam Smith’s sophomore album The Thrill of It All sounds exactly like how you would expect. 

The album starts on a strong note — ‘Too Good At Goodbyes’, the opening song, shows off Smith’s beautiful vocals and ability to conjure up strong emotions through both lyrics and his musical choices. Having been released as a single some months earlier, and having an undeniable resemblance to his larger-than-life hit ‘Stay With Me’, this is a great song to get us back into the groove. It’s a safe and welcoming opening track, and very quickly, we’re happy to be crying and singing along with Smith. 

Unfortunately, that’s about all the excitement The Thrill of It All provides. Each song individually sounds great — I particularly like the soulful, upbeat ‘One Last Song’, and his vocal performance in ‘Midnight Train’. But when put together in a collection, they fail to grab any attention since many of them sound alike. 

Sam Smith has hit a winning formula — sweet, emotional songs about love and heartbreak which show off his incredible talent. There is no denying that he has a powerful voice and is a born storyteller. With his first album, In The Lonely Hour, he invited us right into the depths of his most human heartbreak, and we were on his side. And yet, there is something about The Thrill of It All that fails to builds this connection once more. 

Through all this, credit must be given where credit is due. ‘HIM’ is an exquisite song. This is not a review that will try to guess and gossip about Smith’s beliefs and his spirituality — but will commend him on the delicate handling of such a topical and important discussion. ‘HIM’ does a great job of being clean and allowing us to just sit with Smith’s confessional lyrics, and sparsely add in church motifs with a backing choir when emotion needs to rise. Smith doesn’t preach nor attack or blame in his song. The simplicity of him quietly repeating the line ‘it is him I love’ and his powerful assertion ‘don’t you try and tell me that God doesn’t care for us’ is enough. 

It’s songs like ‘HIM’ and ‘Too Good At Goodbyes’ that show off what Sam Smith does best. He isn’t scared of himself, his loneliness or his emotional fight. It’s all part of him, and he will share it with the world — hopefully, it’ll help others feel understood. Musically, Smith is still finding himself. The Thrill of It All is a lovely album but doesn’t push any boundaries. The songs are pretty — ‘Baby You Make Me Crazy’ is perfect to put on when dancing by yourself at home, ‘Pray’ is great for making you sit with yourself and think about your values. But tonally, the album never inspires any great response. Sam Smith is a master of confessional lyrics — I can’t wait to hear them to some boundary-pushing music in the future. 

Written by Iryna Byelyayeva