Ok. Ok. I know I’m late with a review of this album… but in all fairness, it tugs at the heart strings and brings me to tears with every listen. It’s taken me this long to pull myself together to give it a proper review that can live up to it’s pure brilliantness. So here it goes (with tissues in hand).
Sam Smith‘s “In The Lonely Hour” is THE most honest body of work I’ve had the pleasure of listening to in a long time. Yes, it echoes the same honesty that we’ve seen from Adele, and yes, it also seems that Smith is a depressed homebody watching all of John Cusack’s movies with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, but “In The Lonely” hour is a very important record for the time we are living in. As an openly gay man in the year of 2014, it’s beautiful to see another openly gay man speak from an honest (did I mention it’s honest) and emotional perspective that transcends the gay community. EVERYONE, yes everyone, relates to the material Smith offers on his debut. With a body of work that speaks to the darker side of love, there’s not a single person in the world who won’t be moved by the album lyrically or vocally. His hit song, “Stay With Me,” has been on heavy rotation on radio here in the states, and has hit #1 in many countries around the world. It seems that sexuality aside, talent and courageous vulnerability transcends all.
The album starts off with 2013’s single “Money On My Mind,” which is an ode to the love of music, regardless of success. It’s one of the more uptempo records on the album and a perfect intro to who Sam Smith is as an artist, as well as a person (“I don’t have/Money on my mind/I do it for the love”). Next comes a string of ballads that showcase Sam’s (I hope he’s ok with us being on a first name basis) incomparable range and control of his voice as well as his remarkable ability to put emotions into words. On “Good Thing” Sam sings about how sometimes a relationship can be misread and that he may need to leave before he falls too deeply (“Too much of a good thing won’t be good for long/Although you made my heart sing/To stay with you would be wrong/Too much of a good thing won’t be good anymore/Watch where I tread before I fall”). As previously mentioned, “Stay With Me” has been a world wide smash and it’s easy to understand why. Sam takes us to church vocally (the choir also helps with that) and sings about a situation that is most likely all too familiar to many of us: how a one night stand can be a temporary fix for loneliness.
Next comes “Leave Your Lover,” a beautiful ballad about unrequited love, showing off his falsetto in the most vulnerable of requests (“Pack up and leave everything/Don’t see what I can bring/Can’t keep this beating heart at bay… I will give you all of me/Just leave your lover/Leave him for me”). “I’m Not The Only One,” recently announced as the fourth single from the album, is a declaration of insecurity about a lover who hasn’t been the most responsible with Sam’s love (“You say I’m crazy/’cause you don’t think I know what you’ve done/But when you call me baby/I know I’m not the only one”). Sam has finally had it with the cat and mouse game on “I’ve Told You Now.” His vocal delivery communicates the frustration of being in love with someone who doesn’t quite get it, with a tenderness that shows how much he cares (“But what the hell?/Why do you think I come ’round here on my own free will/Wasting all my precious time/The truth spills out/Oh I’ve told you now”).
The tempo gets picked up with “Like I Can,” where Sam is still in competition with other men for a lover’s attention (“He’ll never you like I can”). The whole vibe of the song echo’s that of Emeli Sande’s “Next To Me.” “Life Support” plays like the musical equivalent of Sam’s emotional relapse on the lover he’s let go of (“Can’t you see that I am yours/So will you be my life support”). On “Not In That Way,” Sam seems to have an epiphany with the whole situation, coming to the realization that the love he’s pined after for so long will never love him in return (“I’d never ask you/’Cause deep down I’m certain I’d know what you’d say/You’d say I’m sorry/Believe me/I love you/But not in that way”). And finally, Sam saves the best for last. “Lay Me Down” summarizes “In The Lonely Hour” perfectly in one song. He shows his versatility with a vocal performance that recalls anything on Beyonce´’s underrated “4” album. The song starts soft and builds with strings and percussion until it climaxes, ending with the same soft, melodrama it started with.
“In The Lonely Hour” is certainly not perfect, but it is perfect in it’s imperfections, much like love. And it’s that sentiment that makes this album brilliantly beautiful.
If you weren’t convinced by the ten tracks on the standard edition of “In The Lonely Hour,” check out the bonus tracks off of the Deluxe version, “Restart,” “Reminds Me Of You,” “Make It To Me,” as well as the hit single from Naughty Boy, “La La La,” and an acoustic version of Disclosure’s “Latch.” Get “In The Lonely Hour” now on iTunes here!