It’s been three long years since Sam Smith unveiled his debut studio album, ‘In The Lonely Hour’, with the long-awaited follow-up ‘The Thrill Of It All’ being released on Friday (3 November).
Second albums are a notoriously tricky hurdle for a lot of artists, particularly when their first offering has received critical or commercial success, as it’s often seen by music-lovers as a sink or swim situation.
With Sam already a polarising figure within the industry, will ‘The Thrill Of It’ cement his place as one to watch within the music world?
Well, the first reviews for his latest offering are out, and while many have pointed out the obvious similarities to ‘In The Lonely Hour’, the jury’s still out as to whether or not that’s a good thing...
“It’s tempting to read the album’s title ironically, but for as pained as Smith sounds, he’s also engaged and alive, channeling his demons into songs that are immediately welcoming, warm, and soulful.
“That isn’t to say that the album’s conservatism doesn’t leave some questions about where Smith’s headed. He’s deepened his craft without exactly broadening it, which makes ‘The Thrill of It All’ feel more like a fine-tuning than a bold new adventure.”
The Independent (4/5)
“Smith’s voice remains a thing of wonder throughout. On the old soul-styled ‘One Last Song’, he sweeps smoothly into a clear high tenor without slipping into falsetto escape, thereby evoking more genuine emotional connection; and his vibrato touches in ‘Burning’ are subtly controlled, against the rich choral backing vocals that give the album a powerful gospel flavour.”
“Even to the untutored ear, it’s obvious the 25-year-old is a fearsome ninja of vocal technique. Which makes the ‘thrill’ in that title doubly baffling, because it doesn’t relate to anything in this mannered and self-consciously ‘moving’ soul-blues set...
“Emotions are notoriously messy, but Smith’s controlled material reflects none of that. If The Thrill Of It All were any more constipated, it would come with laxative coupons.”
″‘The Thrill of It All’ shakes some of the stuffiness off Smith’s sound by livening up arrangements. Songs that would’ve been hammered out as droll piano ballads get fleshed out with strings, horns, and sweeping backing vocals.
“But writing off the album’s embrace of soul and gospel as a deliberate signifier of groundedness… ignores how genuinely engaged Smith sounds when singing this music.”
“Even at a compact 10 songs, ’The Thrill of It All’ has a dull spot or two... but these are small quibbles, and at a brisk 35 minutes, the album is so aerodynamically constructed that it quickly flies past any rough patches.
“Much of it feels comfortable; at 25, Smith can still sing the hell out of the kind of love songs he could sing the hell out of when he was 20. But he’s grown, too, and ’The Thrill of It All’ is best when he stretches out of his comfort zone.”
“For “The Thrill of It All,” the musical backdrop is far lusher than it was on his debut, though Smith’s voice is still distinctive enough and powerful enough to command the spotlight in every song.
“Sometimes, Smith’s sadness becomes a bit overwhelming, but his voice remains a marvel, making ‘The Thrill of It All’ an even more potent statement than his thrilling debut.”
“Of course, Sam Smith’s voice is just as powerful as ever - though his range is occasionally tested, his falsetto, control, and technical skill are all impressively on point.
“Again; nothing on ‘The Thrill of It All’ will surprise anyone, it’s very much peak Sam Smith. But it’s romantic, painfully honest, bleak as hell, and just as impressive.”