COLUMN: Sam Smith elevates emotion with sophomore album


Sam Smith, a British singer-songwriter, released his album "The Thrill of It All" on Friday. Smith's last full work was "In the Lonely Hour," which came out in 2014. Tribune News Service Buy Photos

Sam Smith first hit the Billboard charts as the featured singer on the 2012 song “Latch” by Disclosure. The crazy success that followed from all of his debut album "In the Lonely Hour" set the bar pretty high for anything he'd create after. Now, Smith is hitting the Top 10 with his sophomore album, “The Thrill of It All (Special Edition),” which is sitting at No. 2 on iTunes.

In 2014 Smith released “In the Lonely Hour,” and has been winning Grammys since. He won four for his debut, including “Best Pop Vocal Album" and "Song of the Year" for the single "Stay with Me."

“The Thrill of It All," released Nov. 3, opens with Smith’s breathless voice backed by a piano in “Too Good at Goodbyes,” which is about a relationship of his that lasted for five months and took three breakups to officially end, according to The New York Times. 

The song sets the tone for the album and lets the listeners know they’re in for an emotional and raw album full of Smith showing off how original his voice really is. “Too Good at Goodbyes” was the first single off the album, and it is currently Smith’s most popular song on Spotify. 

It’s closely followed by “Pray,” the second single. “Pray,” a collaboration with Timbaland, has a hip-hop beat and gospel-like influences. Smith told Billboard “Pray” was inspired by a trip he had taken to Iraq.

“I spent five days in Mosul and came back ­embarrassed that I had known so little about the world and other people’s lives,” Smith said in the article. “I wanted to write about how I’m now starting to open my eyes, at 25, to what is going on in the rest of the world, and that it’s not always pretty.”

The song “HIM” on his newest album is a sort of coming out song. 

Smith came out as gay to his mom when he was 10, according to a New York Times article, and came out publicly after rising to fame with the release of his first album. 

He had kept his sexuality separate from his music, but for this album he has incorporated it very openly and clearly in his lyrics. 

“Don’t you try and tell me that God doesn’t care for us,” he sings over a soft and slow piano before the beat comes in on “HIM.” “It is him I love.”

“HIM” is arguably the most breathtaking of all the songs on the album. While Smith’s vocal range stuns throughout the album, the slow piano in the beginning of this song helps showcase the raw power and beauty of his voice. 

The gospel choir that enters in the later half of the song creates a dramatic aura that I am entirely here for. His lyrics are calculated and precise, and the most moving are sung with the soft piano.

“Holy Father/Judge my sins,” Smith sings at the end of the track. “I’m not afraid of what they will bring/I’m not the boy that you thought you wanted/I love him.”

I listened to this album while singing into a shampoo bottle in the shower, deep cleaning my bedroom to avoid studying, making an emotional car ride home after seeing my family, folding laundry and walking to class.

The versatility of the album is part of what makes it so great. It’s both powerful and sad. It’s beautiful and haunting. Smith played his sophomore album exactly right, and I couldn’t be happier with the 49-minute trip into his mind I get to take every time I listen.

This week, I don’t even want to try to create a playlist. This album deserves 49 minutes of your time, and I don’t want to compare it to anything else. Its beauty deserves to stand alone. Listen to “The Thrill of It All (Special Edition)” here

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