Through the Heart of Sam Smith — “The Thrill of it All”
He is broken, yet powerful; sorrowed, yet hopeful. The words of Sam Smith become the narration of a man who has ultimately lost all strength, finding himself at the end of a road where he can no longer reach to anything else for hope — except perhaps, something greater.
It has been three years since the release of Smith’s debut album, “In the Lonely Hour,” where he received a Grammy award for Best Pop Vocal Album in 2015, as well as the Juno Award for International Album of the Year.
Though the two albums have a much similar appeal to melancholy sentiment, the theme of “The Thrill of It All” is not just of one, but many that intertwine in a way which fall toward one specific concept.That is, finding peace among the trials and tribulations that we all face being in love. Perhaps his most extraordinary quality as a musician is his willingness to pour himself into his album and allow his heart to be heard, rather than felt.
This is most apparent in the first song of the album, “Too Good at Goodbye.” In the chorus he sings, “Every time you hurt me, the less that I cry. Every time you leave me, the quicker these tears dry.” There is a feel of gospel as the track includes notes of choir-like sounds in the background. This is something that hasn’t been done by Smith since “Stay With Me,” one of his most successful songs, which made its debut in April 2014. We are now able to hear this kind of sound in “Pray” and “Nothing Left For You.” The choir serves to strongly emphasize the meaning of giving loved ones your all and being left with nothing.
In a song on his second studio album, “The Thrill of It All,” released Nov. 3, 2017, he sings, “You won’t find me in church, or reading the bible, but I am still here and I’m still your disciple. I’m down on my knees, I’m begging you please, I’m broken, alone, and afraid.” “Pray” is filled with soulful words; deep and passionate, where one could feel the emotions of the artist, as if they existed within themselves.
Smith is clever in a sense that he knows how to grasp emotions and appeal to the listener. His delicate tone seeps gently into the ear causing chills to flow throughout the body when he begins to sing the A cappella introduction of “Burning,” a song that represents the mourning of a loved one. He sings, “I’ve been burning, yes, I’ve been burning. Such a burden, this flame on my chest. No insurance to pay for the damage, yeah, I’ve been burning up since you left.”
The vast majority of his songs are primarily similar, as they all tend to revolve around the idea of love. Still, he is persistent at painting an image in the brain of a perspective that one may have never seen before. It is not just another love song, but a chance to reminisce upon “what once made us a feel free and alive.”
Smith withholds the ability to gracefully expose the wounds of brokenness and pain, allowing the power of his orotund voice to speak to the heart and soul. In “Say It First,” he expresses the yearning for words from a lover. He sings, “Come on baby, say it first, I need to hear you, say those words if I’m all that you desire, I promise they’ll be fire.” Perhaps they are three words, “I love you.”
“One Last Song” gives a classic Etta James sound, where he sings a story of something reminiscent, such as a time where lust was both heart-felt and miserable, and through it all has taught clarity and resilience. He uses that to sing a final song, one that he wishes his lover will awake and feel regret about. In verse two, he sings, “And I hope it makes you feel, and I hope it makes you burn, and I hope it reminds you of how much it hurt.” It is a song that no longer seems sad, but rather rejuvenating.
Singing so powerfully of his sexuality, “HIM” conveys the message that one cannot redirect their heart when it is deeply drawn to love. One cannot hide who they are, but rather embrace it. What is strongly significant about the song is that Sam is speaking to God. Prideful and honest, he sings, “Holy Father, we need to talk, I have a secret, that I can’t keep, I’m not the boy that, you thought you wanted, please don’t get angry, have faith in me.”
A very sincere side of Smith came about in his song, “Scars.” As a form of true appreciation to his mother and father raising him and his two siblings, the love and dedication from them is what Smith claims “cleared up my scars.” He sings, “Dear mother, how you’ve come so far, your love has fixed all of our broken hearts.”
There is no emotion that Sam Smith has to hide on the album, “The Thrill of It All.” With his moods so unpredictable, yet commonly relatable to being human, he was able to deliver another marvelous album to those who can relate to the struggles of life and love.