Sam Smith’s ‘In The Lonely Hour’: Album Review

To say British 22-year-old soulster Sam Smith is gifted beyond his years is a total understatement. If you’re skeptical, just take a look at his already impressive resume. After releasing his infectious collab track “Latch” with British electronic duo Disclosure and subsequently featuring on fellow beatmaker Naughty Boy’s hit single “La La La,” the English crooner went on to not only win the 2014 BRIT Critics’ Choice Awards but also BBC’s Sound of 2014 poll. Consequentially, it seems only fitting that Sam’s incredible skyrocket to success merits such high anticipation for his debut album, In The Lonely Hour. Now the question stands: did it live up to the hype?

Yes. Yes, it did.

While the album, for the most part, is minimalist in its musical arrangement, it is Sam’s virtuosic voice that is purposefully made the focal instrument. From gospel-influenced tracks like “Stay With Me” to jazzy numbers such as “I’m Not The Only One,” it is clear that Sam not only has pipes of gold but knows how to use them as well. This can only really be explained by Smith’s intensive jazz vocal training since he was 8 years young.

However, as Smith has said time and time again, and as the album title clearly suggests, In The Lonely Hour is about unrequited love and, thus, inherently melancholy. Judging from his more or less upbeat track record with electronic hot shots, this may or may not come as a surprise to fans, save the Two Inch Punch-produced falsetto-laden album opener “Money On My Mind.” Even so, when stripped down, “Latch” proves to retain those “classic” song stylings that Smith so effortlessly puts forth, fitting in perfectly with the rest of the album.

No doubt, most of the disc is somewhat of a ballad extravaganza, which causes some songs such as “I’ve Told You Now” and “Not In That Way” to fall on the back-burner and waver when pinned against powerhouse numbers such as  “Leave Your Lover” and “Lay Me Down.” While every track faithfully keeps to Smith’s theme, they almost seem to ironically stand alone instead of making a fluid piece of work, a possible unintentional by-product of Smith’s exploration of unreciprocated love.

But, that  seems to be the beauty of the album. As told by Smith to Digital Spy, “The album is supposed to be the soundtrack to those quiet moments in life,” and it, indeed, achieves its goal. Although there are some clear sure-fire hits on the LP, there are also quiet, dark horses such as “Like I Can” and “Good Thing” that make the album worth everyone’s while.  While “Like I Can” is truly power pop anthem for the ages, “Good Thing” is a simple, dreamy track that kicks off with a rather romantic string section (slightly reminiscent of Justin Timberlake’s “Pusher Love Girl”), which floats into an acoustic, raw and vulnerable account of Smith’s not-so-happy experience with love.

What’s more, despite Smith professing that the album is about another man, the theme remains painfully universal through and through.

“I’ve tried to be clever with this album, because it’s also important to me that my music reaches everybody.” Smith professed in a recent interview with FADER. “I’ve made my music so that it could be about anything and everybody – whether it’s a guy, a female or a goat, and everybody can relate to that.”

Perhaps, this is exactly why the album works. Not only is the music beautiful, but it also showcases a theme that is applicable to all and especially apt for a young guy like Smith that is only beginning his journey to superstardom and in the world in general.

So, when in doubt at 3 a.m. and in need of a seriously fulfilling ugly-cry moment, grab a tub of ice-cream, listen to this album, and maybe those lonely hours won’t be so lonely after all.

Best Song That Wasn’t the Single: With it’s moments of grandeur coupled with well-executed restraint, “Good Thing” is, simply put, an undeniably dreamy number.

Full Disclosure: Pretty much most of these songs are officially added to my  “Belting-In-The-Shower” Playlist, and I’m positive that a few (or more than that) will be added to yours too.

Idolator Score: 4/5

— Rachel Sonis

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