In 2014, Sam Smith took the world by storm with his smash hit song, “Stay With Me.” The single, and subsequent debut album In the Lonely Hour, went on to become widely successful. Smith earned several Grammy awards for “Stay With Me” and the entire record. The collection produced fan favorites like “Lay Me Down” and “I’m Not the Only One.”
Following this surprising and record-breaking success, the pop singer recorded “Writing’s On the Wall” for the latest James Bond film, winning an Oscar in the process. Soon after, though, the artist vanished from the spotlight.
After three long years, Sam Smith returned with a sharper, more focused record. The Thrill of It All presents a more confident artist who knows who he is and what style suits him best. Unlike In the Lonely Hour, Smith’s sophomore LP retains a more cohesive sound throughout its 14 tracks. It is less experimental and far superior to the singer’s already impressive debut project.
The Thrill of It All is a soulful album that features very simple instrumentation. Its sound may remind listeners of other artists like the late Amy Winehouse or Adele, an artist who continues to record old fashioned records with mass appeal.
Thrill opens with the lead single “Too Good at Goodbyes.” Smith sings of his familiarity with betrayal and heartache — emotions he now shields himself from. The rest of the album continues to discuss the multi-faceted beast that is love, while delving into concepts like identity, spirituality, and the strange dichotomy they seem to present.
One key track is “HIM,” where Smith sings about his desire to feel at home in a church while also being able to have a relationship with another man. The track’s gospel theme contradicts the sacrilegious narrative to profound ends.
Other tracks discuss Smith’s current dissatisfaction with the ways of the world. “Pray,” for example, presents a worried Smith fearful of the current political turbulence. On another track, “Scars,” Smith delves deeper into his past family life, exposing deeply personal pieces of himself.
Although the album is very strong in terms of lyrics and production, it’s somewhat slow pace causes the record to drag a little bit toward the end of its run time. Those who can lose themselves in his voice and storytelling will overlook the slow tempo of most tracks, while others may succumb to their boredom.
Like his first album, The Thrill of It All has a plethora of love songs. The singer discusses the highs and lows of relationships. He presents himself as the victim and antagonist. He laments a past flame on “Burning” and “Palace,” while reflecting on his decision to leave a lover on “Midnight Train.”
The Thrill of It All may very well be the Smith’s magnum opus. It’s straightforward production allows the singer to drive the project with his emotive voice. While each song has a similar sound, the lyrical diversity truly distinguishes each track. It would not be surprising if the collection of songs was recognized at next year’s Grammys.