“The Thrill of It All” review


Brian Xie, Reporter

With his previous album “In the Lonely Hour” selling over six million units worldwide and winning four Grammys, it’s no surprise that singer-songwriter Sam Smith returned with powerful vocal strength in his 2017 album “The Thrill of It All.”

Smith, known for his haunting ballads centered around the struggles of love and acceptance, once again revisits his roots of heartbreak and sorrow with his latest LP. However, given his reputation as an enchanting singer with previous electronic hits “Latch” and Naughty Boy’s “La La La,” one would have expected Smith to take a greater leap out of his comfort zone in his sophomore album.

As usual, Smith’s vocals are flawless. He effortlessly transitions from polished falsettos to belting out emotionally charged lyrics of love and loss. His messages reflect the sorrows of a man experienced with the disappointments of love and all the pain that comes with it. The album’s hit single “Too Good at Goodbyes” has ranked in the Billboard Top 10 for seven weeks now, showing the public’s affection for Smith’s heartbreaking ballads.

Despite its success in the United States, the album lacks much of the thrill that Smith’s previous electro hits brought to the table. While guest-produced by Timbaland (the man behind many of Jay-Z, Rihanna and Drake’s hits), “Pray” still sticks to Smith’s slow ballad style with the slight incorporation of a jazzy beat. “Burning” is accompanied by a piano melody that sounds like it could have been placed in any of the songs from Smith’s previous album. Perhaps the most exciting of all the songs in the album is “HIM,” in which Smith openly acknowledges his homosexuality with the lines “Say I shouldn’t be here but I can’t give up his touch/It is him I love, it is him.” While Smith is open about being gay, this is the first song that explicitly states his sexual orientation. The song is accompanied with a church-like choral background, highlighting the conflict between Christian ideology and Smith’s identity.

While “The Thrill of It All” is pleasing to listen to, it is extremely reminiscent of Smith’s debut album. The lonely piano chords and his nonconforming high tenor are staples of his work, yet one would have expected Sam to experiment with something new after three years of development. However, there is no denying the success of his music — Smith continues to attract a following because of his ability to empathize with the universal feelings of loneliness and mourning.