Sam Smith’s voice is an entity all on its own. His sophomore release is filled with powerful doo-wop clappers, longing soulful ballads, and compelling stories of bittersweet romance and heartbreak. But it’s more than that, it’s so much more than that. The Thrill of It All is a memoir, it’s a gospel, and it’s a confession; it’s an epic listen.
The UK native returned to the airwaves with his confident bone-chilling single “Too Good At Goodbyes.” The single entered the US Billboard Hot 100 at number five on September 30th and topped the Digital Songs chart with 90,000 downloads and 20.8 million streams. He dethroned Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” in the UK, making this his sixth number-one single on the UK Singles Chart.
The Grammy winner explains his unique ability to quickly overcome a broken heart in the lead single, while the pre-chorus sets the mood of the album. “But every time you hurt me, the less that I cry/ And every time you leave me, the quicker these tears dry/And every time you walk out, the less I love you/ Baby, we don’t stand a chance, it’s sad but it’s true.” The choir backup vocals emphasize the depths of this R&B soul crusher. We hear hints of “Stay With Me,” do you?
Smith reels us in closer with the second track “Say It First,” which describes the gut retching feeling of uncertainty all too well. The unknown is a scary beast, but his positivity makes it bearable. “I never feel like this/ I’m used to emptiness/ in my heart/ And in my arms/ You’re not what I‘m used to/ You keep me guessing with things that you do/ I hope that they’re true.” He pays tribute to Amy Winehouse’s signature doo-wop classics “Tears Dry on Their Own” and “Me & Mr Jones” in “One Last Song” and “Baby You Make Me Crazy.”
The doo-wop theme continues in “Midnight Train” as Smith confesses his “selfish love” in the first verse. “I choose me, and I know that’s selfish, love/ You are a dream,/ and I can’t thank you enough/ But I give another piece of me away/ Every waking day that I’m with you/ Am I a monster? /What will your family think of me?/ They brought me in, they helped me out with everything/ But I give a little piece of me away /Every single day.”
The gospel-themed collaboration with Timbaland “Pray,” is the main act from the album. The song gradually builds into an anthem of hope “everyone prays in the end”. He calls on Adele with “Nothing Left For You,” in this “Hello” inspired song. The title track “The Thrill Of It All” doesn’t thrill us at all, but the acoustic “Scars” and “One Day At A Time”, on the other hand, have what it takes to become popular dance tracks, similar to “Latch” or “Omen.”
The Thrill Of It All is mighty follow up to 2014’s In The Lonely Hour. Each song has its own identity, it’s own meaning and it’s own purpose. Sam Smith draws his energy from Amy Winehouse, Adele, and Whitney Houston, but paves his own path nonetheless. He combines the genres of doo-wop, gospel, R&B and of course soul-pop, reminding us why we fell for this powerhouse four years ago.
4.5 Out of 5 Stars