By Erin Hickey
Three years following the release of his debut, Grammy Award-winning album “In the Lonely Hour” and over two years after the release of his Oscar-winning single “Writing’s on the Wall,” singer Sam Smith has returned in full force with his sophomore album “The Thrill of It All,” released on Nov. 3.
Smith is known for his songs of heartbreak and loneliness and has been candid about the unrequited love that inspired much of his debut album. This aspect of his songwriting is not unheard in “The Thrill of It All,” but this album shows a far different Smith.
Smith has grown since the release of “In the Lonely Hour.” He has lost weight, changed his classic pompadour hairstyle to a close-cut shave, grown a scruffy beard and loosened up his attire from suits to what one twitter user described as clothing that makes him look as if he “lays around all day and smok[es] weed.”
However, Smith’s growth is displayed in far more than physical appearance alone. The tracks on this album show a more mature Smith. He was only 22 when his first album came out, and the years he took off allowed him to live a life away from fame and to experience more of life he hadn’t been able to before.
“Too Good at Goodbyes” opens “The Thrill of It All” with a familiar sound: Sam and the piano, his voice carrying you to an emotional place you didn’t know you needed to be taken. This song displays a stark change from Smith’s Grammy-winning hit “Stay With Me” where he sang of pining after a one-night stand and not wanting to be left alone. Now he has become hardened – he has become “too good at goodbyes.” This is a feeling people who have been heartbroken one too many times know all too well.
The next standout song on the album is one Smith has said to be one of his favorites and the most recent single, “One Last Song.” Many of the songs on “In the Lonely Hour” were about Smith’s unrequited love, and this song is meant to be one last song for that person. It’s a sad song with an upbeat tempo. Upon hearing it for the first time – if you don’t listen carefully enough – you may think it’s a happy song. But with lyrics like “When it was good, it was bittersweet, honey. You made me sad ‘til I loved the shade of blue,” there’s no mistaking that this is still one of Smith’s classic songs of despair.
Similarly, “Baby, You Make Me Crazy” might have an uplifting feel, but lyrics such as “Why’d you have to fill my heart with sorrow?” reveal the inner desperation and sadness that Smith has become both known and loved for. Smith calls songs like “One Last Song” and “Baby, You Make Me Crazy” “dance and cry songs,” and after listening one can tell why.
Off the special edition of “The Thrill of It All,” “Nothing Left for You” is a powerful song filled with bitterness and anger at Smith’s past relationships. “I gave my heart to a goddamn fool,” Smith sings in the chorus. “I gave him everything, now there’s nothing left for you.” This song also features the gospel choir that is prominent on multiple songs throughout the album.
The gospel choir is a feature of Smith’s second album that sets him apart from both his previous album and other artists in the music world today. Smith brings a new sound to the 2017 pop world. Many songs on the album feature just Smith, the piano and backup singers – in the form of both his own backup and the gospel choir – leaving simply the raw emotion and powerful lyrics to move the listener.
Smith’s follow-up album to “In the Lonely Hour” brings the familiar pangs of loneliness Smith displayed in his debut album and adds years of experience to create a heartfelt album that fans are sure to find songs they can relate to. “The Thrill of It All” delivers music everyone will love about loneliness, loss of love and finding hope amongst the pains of life.