-- Sam Smith’s “The Thrill of It All”
Sam Smith follows up his 2014 debut, “In the Lonely Hour,” with his sophomore effort, “The Thrill of it All.” Much like its predecessor, this album finds its core in soft ballads. Smith’s emotive voice can be a real asset, somewhat flexibly conveying feeling.
The hit “Too Good at Goodbyes” and the second track “Say it First” seem to indicate that Smith is setting out to be a male counterpart to Adele. His voice is dynamic in the way it bends. While his singing is not as boomingly confident as Adele’s, his voice is able to zig and zag, even as it maneuvers into an occasionally whisper-y falsetto.
In addition to aiming for Adele’s turf, Smith is going for a classic R&B and gospel vibe. That can be heard on both “One Last Song” and “Midnight Train,” the latter of which sounds like a soulful answer to Radiohead’s “Creep.”
Smith gets more righteous on “HIM” and gets softly groovy on “Baby, You Make Me Crazy.” Sometimes Smith’s higher register can be a tad grating. However, he can somehow slightly irritate and entertain simultaneously. He duets successfully with up-and-coming singer Yebba on “No Peace,” and hits a sweet spot with the slow-burning “Palace.”
This record feels more lived-in and fully realized than his debut. Each of the songs on its own is decent, but you get the feeling once you finish with the closer (and second single) “Pray,” that Smith is taking the easy route. He should stretch beyond the ballads, as he's capable of more. This feels like a sequel to his first record almost in a retreading kind of way.
“The Thrill of it All,” while a fitting showcase for Smith’s skill, lacks an extra spark. It’s good, but it could be better.
“Too Good at Goodbyes” Smith’s songs often seem at first a tad innocuous but on repeat listens they begin to pack power. This one is a real winner.
“Midnight Train” Radiohead comparisons aside, this song has some real momentum, showcasing Smith at his most vocally butter-soaked. The doo-wop style backing vocals are also a nice touch.
“Baby You Make Me Crazy” This has some potent swagger. This song’s little boost makes you wonder what Smith would do if he was pushed a notch or two further.