A beautiful vulnerability radiated through my headphones the first time I streamed Sam Smith’s newest album, “The Thrill of it All.” The rawness and passion in Smith’s vocals provided fans with an indescribable emotional experience throughout all 14 songs. “The Thrill of it All,” was released on Nov. 3 and opens with the hit song, “Too Good at Goodbyes,” which I praised in an earlier article for The Mirror. According to Rolling Stone, “Too Good at Goodbyes” has reached over 120 million YouTube plays since its release and I’m sure the album as a whole will continue the same way.
With songs that encompass soul, pop and R&B, “The Thrill of it All” is an inspirational album for a variety of listeners. Smith has the reputation of encompassing what it means to be a sad and sometimes lonely singer and this album emphasizes this same theme. However, what stands out in Smith’s newest album is his resilience and determination to accept heartbreak, and assess how he can best conquer this loneliness. The second song on Smith’s album, “Say it First,” is a powerful song where Smith requests the love of his life to, “say it first.” He claims that if his partner really loves him, he needs to hear the words come from his partner’s mouth first. Not only is this a vulnerable, desperate state of mind to be in, but it’s one that is so relatable. Everyone in a relationship is always nervous if their feelings aren’t echoed by their partner and in this song Smith expresses just how frustrating this state of unknowing can be.
How does Smith create an album with the theme of heartbreak and loneliness without putting his listeners to sleep? Variety. Sure, the majority of songs in Smith’s albums are his typical slow songs that rely heavily on piano chords and the strum of an acoustic guitar, but a few hidden singles scattered throughout the album slide into that “pop” category. For example, “One Last Song” and “Baby, You Make Me Crazy,” both showcase Smith’s rare ability to take a sad concept and create an upbeat song out of it.
Acapella is a risky skill to experiment with as a singer who is trying to reach top charts. The majority of listeners want songs with a beat and rhythm to dance to, workout to or walk to class to. However, Smith took a leap of faith, and his leap made him soar. “Burning,” is the fifth song on Smith’s album and the acapella start is both powerfully and beautifully executed. After his first verse, a piano joins him throughout the remainder of the song, yet his voice does not waver from his original, low acapella key. Smith sings, “Funny how time goes by/ Had respect for myself/ That river ran dry/ You reached a limit/ I wasn’t enough/ It’s like the fire replaced all the love.” This lyric, paired with the faint accompaniment of the piano, was nothing short of pure emotion and vulnerability. If this song doesn’t send a chill up your spine, then I fear you have no soul.
Perhaps the most powerful song of the album and rightfully so given the album’s title, is “The Thrill of it All.” This single features Smith’s unmatched triple threat of musical genius, vocal prestige and lyric beauty. A spiritually moving piece for sure, “The Thrill of it All” will undoubtedly meet the top spot on the charts, as not only is it relatable, but it also includes the incredible dynamic of softness that rises to a powerhouse of piano chords and a rush of lyrics pouring out of Smith’s mouth. During the chorus of this single, Smith sings, “I guess I got lost in the moment/ I guess I got lost in the fall/ I guess I got lost in your heartbeat/ In the thrill of it all/ And I guess you were goddamn perfect/ ‘Cause every single time you call/ I remind myself of what I lost that night, my love/ In the thrill of it all.” Everyone has experienced the emotion of what it means to lose someone — whether it be romantically or not. The feeling of lying awake at night, racking one’s mind about what they did to lose someone so special, so, “goddamn perfect,” is a feeling no one takes pleasure in. Yet, what’s even worse is realizing that they weren’t worth your time in the first place, for it may not be you who lost someone worth loving, it could be just the opposite. This theme of respecting oneself first, owning up to who you are and then figuring out how to fit in within an imperfect society is difficult, and Smith not only addresses this difficulty head on, but he takes this concept by the horns and fully embodies this raw emotion for the world to see and hear, which is simply astonishing.
“The Thrill of it All,” scored a 4/5 stars from Rolling Stone and a 73/100 from metacritic. The album is available for streaming on Spotify and goes for $11.99 on iTunes, where it received 4.5/5 stars from customer reviews.