Winner of several Grammy Awards and pop icon, Sam Smith
continues to break new ground with the release of his latest album The Thrill Of It All.
After the incredible reception of his first album back in 2014, The Lonely Hour,
fans from around the world have been waiting not-so-patiently for this new addition. With strong love ballads making up the majority of the album, the emotional journey Smith undergoes is striking.
The opening track "Too Good at Goodbyes" introduces the tone of the album, it starts off slow and gradually builds into a soulful exploration of personal boundaries. Smith's lyrics on this track, accompanied with the backup vocals add a sense of eerie loneliness, setting the atmosphere for the entire album. The deliberate layout of the song listing allows us to undertake this personal journey with Smith, as each song seeps into the next. It's an undulating experience, loaded with the struggles of abandonment and personal growth.
He discusses the insecurities of relationships in almost all of his tracks, especially "Say It First" and "Burning" which he draws on his own personal experiences. This process of songwriting elicits a certain amount of honesty from the artist, giving an insight into their world, although it is rarely done in a way where the listener can fully relate to such emotions. Smith ultimately succeeds in this endeavor; his references to being gay in the track "Him" demonstrates the bravery and transparency in his music. Smith's lyrics rarely use identifying pronouns, until this track where he distinctly states "I love him." His position as an openly gay musician and icon, gives this album a voice that tends to be so heavily oppressed in the industry. His ability to tackle the issues of sexuality and religion within one song makes "Him" one of the more complex songs on the album.
The track "Pray" uses hints of percussion and a choir to continue dissecting this notion of religion and love. The religious mentions of "Holy Father" and shamed secrecy alludes to his battle with accepting his sexuality whilst maintaining his faith. This can be seen as a modern interpretation of a church hymn, with the line "everyone prays in the end" as a reaffirmation of faith, a pleading attempt to solve all the battles he is facing.
The album's title track is a perfect summary of the whole album. Its soft piano utilizes the simplistic aspects that make Smith's take on R&B unique and refreshing. "I never thought I'd learn so much, so much from being lonely" hits hard, as it settles with the piano chords before it escalates into a more passionate expression.
Some tracks do feel a little inauthentic at times, like "Baby You Make Me Crazy." The lyrics paired with the tune of the vocals feel a bit off in areas, as if the emotion behind the lyrics is not quite there, causing it to fall a bit flat. Although one of the most upbeat tracks on the record, it fails to add that sense of relief from the other despondent songs. The duet with YEBBA
on "No Peace" however, is an invigorating detour from the rest of the album. It doesn't distract from the continuity, nor does it appear estranged from the Smith-led tunes. YEBBA brings her strength and vigor to give the album that extra touch.
This second album by this English songwriter brings emotions that have been lying idle to the surface, in an attempt to dissect their influence. Smith's honest exploration of his personal growth and inner battles, gives him an alternative reception to most pop artists today. The Thrill Of It All
is a multi layered piece that tackles not just personal struggles but maintains a strong voice in our current social climate.