The buzz around Sam Smith has been building for months. He’s already made his impact in his native U.K., but now it’s time to make the jump across the pond and people are paying attention. He’s the vocalist on the stellar Disclosure track “Latch”, and debuted his own material on Saturday Night Live a few months ago to great reviews. His first single, the gospel-sounding “Stay With Me”, has become an unconventional hit on the iTunes chart. So expectations are high for his debut album, In The Lonely Hour. Comparisons have been made to fellow Brit Adele, and he earns the comparison to that Grammy-winning powerhouse.
Sam’s In The Lonely Hour is to unrequited love what Adele’s 21 is to a scorned love. On almost every track, Sam croons about wanting someone that doesn’t want him back. With lyrics like “can I lay by your side”, “leave your lover, leave him for me”, “he’ll never love you like I can”, and “you’d say i love you but not in that way”, this guy is giving it his all trying to win his crush over. While it could sound desperate, Smith sings it with such passion that you’re right in there for the fight with him.
The productions smartly keep things interesting as well, from the previously mentioned gospel influences on “Stay With Me”, “Like I Can”, “I’m Not The Only One” and “Lay Me Down”, to the acoustic “Not In That Way” and “Leave Your Lover”, to the danceable closer “Restart”. There’s a great variety amongst the tracks. Smith still needs to figure out how to use his voice on fast-tempo tracks. Like Adele, she struggled with it on her first album, 19. It wasn’t until her second album that she figured out what upbeat tracks work for her (“Rolling In The Deep”, “Rumor Has It”). So hopefully Sam can work out that kink for the next time because something feels off about the opener “Money On My Mind”.
But that’s just trying to find a fault somewhere because this debut is pretty flawless. Rarely does a debut artist hit the bullseye as much as Sam does. You’re going to be hearing a lot more of him as 2014 rolls on and more people discover his music. You can fully expect he’ll be among the nominees for next year’s Grammys.