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Thursday, May 23, 2024
The Observer

All About "The Thrill of It All"

Cristina Interiano

Sam Smith has a lot to live up to. At only 25 years old, he already has four Grammys under his belt, thanks to his debut album “In the Lonely Hour,” as well as an Academy Award for his “Writing’s on the Wall” from "Spectre." Smith has found a way to achieve international acclaim during an unusually short period of time.

His follow-up album, “The Thrill of It All,” has been long-anticipated by both fans and critics ever since his debut. And it in some regards it lives up to his past successes, but in no way outdoes them.

Almost every song on “The Thrill of It All” rips your heart out. The melancholy in a few is disguised with upbeat choruses and catchy lyrics, but they are the outliers. This sad, reflective take on romance is nothing new to Smith, however. It’s his trademark in a sense — the thing that made him famous and what will most likely keep him relevant. These songs about falling in and out of love are nothing new to music in general either. They focus on a rather exhausted subject matter; something music seems to gravitate towards these days. With his vocal variety, range and sheer talent, however, Smith can get away with this. Any monochromatic, overdone lyric sound beautiful in his falsetto and with his signature retro beats. It is clear that lyrics of “The Thrill of It All” come second to style and aesthetic.

The opening track, “Too Good at Goodbyes,” doesn’t waste any time in capitalizing on this. Drawing listeners in with his smooth, soulful voice,  and pondering the times he has thrown away relationships, Smith has you mesmerized from the get-go. It's not a song that tries to hard to pull you in, though. Like many of the album's subsequent songs, it is minimalistic, with primarily finger snaps, light piano playing and a gorgeous choir supplementing Smith’s vocals — nothing over the top, but more than enough.

“Too Good at Goodbyes” and numerous following tracks have a definite formula. They all involve a stripped-down start and end, a steady build to a chorus that allows Smith to showcase his vocal range and an ever-present gospel choir turned pop. These components work together to produce catchy enough songs, but a little more variety would have been refreshing. A swathe of the songs are indistinguishable from one another, meshing together more than they should. A sense of unity within the album is no doubt a positive thing, but too much can become drole and leave its listeners inattentive.

The variety that this album does have should not be not be applied to the entire album, though. “One Last Song” and “Baby, You Make Me Crazy”  are both more upbeat tracks that provide a release from the overbearing melancholy of the rest of the album. They feel reminiscent of the 1960s without sacrificing Smith’s uniquely modern sound. These simple love songs are definite highlights of the album — both in style and content.

“No Peace” is the only song with a feature on “The Thrill of It All”. YEBBA, the featured artist, matches Smith’s powerful voice adequately, but doesn’t add much to the track. A more successful song is “HIM,” which diverges from the theme of heartbreak. It is more of an anthem about Smith's homosexuality and facing the struggles that come along with it. Seeing Smith use his platform as an artist to spark conversation about the prejudice against the LGBTQ community is both inspiring and refreshing.

Smith closes his album with a duet of ballads. “Nothing Left for You” and “The Thrill of It All” are more entertaining tunes than the ones stuck in the monotony of the middle of the album. They encompass the best parts of the previous tracks, emphasizing Smith’s greatest strength, his voice. These final songs contain perhaps the most captivating lyricism Smith has ever put into song.

The album “The Thrill of It All,” although nothing groundbreaking, is worth a listen, and will undoubtedly garner Sam Smith more respect as a musician and more fans as a celebrity.


Album: “The Thrill of It All”

Label: Capitol Records

If you like: Adele, Charlie Puth

Tracks: “One Last Song,” “Baby, You Make Me Crazy,” “HIM”

3.5 / 5 shamrocks