The arrival of Sam Smith’s new album has been hotly anticipated after the storming success of his debut In The Lonely Hour. Judging by its name, his second instalment, The Thrill Of It All, seemed to promise a slightly less depressing theme, with perhaps a more experimental sound.
This however, is only partially true. Although Smith said recently in an interview that he “fucking hates” some of the songs on his first album, many of the songs on his second are very similar. The album begins with the first single released from the album ‘Too Good at Goodbyes’, which, similar to previous singles like ‘Stay With Me’ and “Not The Only One’, followed the same formula of a heartfelt, minimalistic verse followed by a catchy chorus with some hefty support from a big gospel choir. Pretty standard Sam Smith, right?
And this, in a nutshell, is what the album consists of. Sure, as was evident by the sales rates of the first album, this is clearly what his fans enjoy listening to. But this formula, which is used in so many songs on both records does cause you to glaze over a bit, as it can seem as though they all drift into one, admittedly very relaxing, but also fairly monotonous 45-minute-long song.
A second album is a chance to demonstrate that this amazing voice of his can do more
The classic, fifties style of ‘One Last Song’ and ‘Baby You Make Me Crazy’ adds a shred of upbeat positivity to an album almost solely consisting of heart-break and sorrow-filled songs. ‘Midnight Train’ and ‘Burning’ both rely far too much on the quality of Sam Smith’s voice. Of course, his range and texture is astounding and like no one else in the industry at the moment, but we already know this from the first album. A second album is a chance to demonstrate that this amazing voice of his can do more than just sing slow, depressing ballads.
Admittedly, on tracks like ‘One Day At A Time’, the minimalistic style works, showing off Smith’s delicate vocals whilst keeping the listener interested with a reasonably catchy melody. Your attention might also be grabbed by the introduction of YEBBA’s voice in ‘No Peace’, giving Smith a chance to include some harmonies in his song-writing (something which, sadly, seems to elude the rest of the album- massive missed opportunity for some killer polphony). The one instance where the choir aren’t used in the same backing-up-Sam-for-the-chorus formula is in ‘Nothing Left For You’, where they offer a new dynamic style, with hauntingly powerful interjections which no doubt will sound great in a live performance. But sadly, both of these tracks only appear on the deluxe version of the record.
It can seem as though they all drift into one 45 minute long song
Lyrcially, Smith has said that he’s gone “even deeper” and that he has “put his heart even more on the fucking line”. Although his lyrics are obviously heart-felt, the increased depth and exploration of topics is only really true of two of the songs on the record. ‘Scars’ delves beautifully into the apparently complex relationship he had with his parents, tackling very sensitive issues about his upbringing. In a similar way, Smith manages to address the issues he’s experienced living life as a homosexual man in ‘HIM’ without coming across as too aggressive or victimised. Other than these two tracks however, Smith sticks to his well-known simply-articulated songs about about the same man who done him wrong.
If The Thrill Of It All was designed to be a direct sequel to In The Lonely Hour, then it is the perfect album. Its sound is very similar to its predecessor, with the beautifully unique voice of Sam Smith swirling over minimalistic piano and guitar, with the occasional help of a gospel choir to give the song some depth and gusto. There is no doubt that it is a very pretty album, but if, like me, you were hoping for Smith to be a little more adventurous and show us what that incredible voice can really do, you may be just a little bit disappointed.