Sam Smith - In the Lonely Hour (2014)

Sam Smith
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It’s a testament to Sam Smith’s talent, as well as his haunting and emotive vocals that the video currently going viral features him singing a song that is not on his very good album, In The Lonely Hour. Smith covers Whitney Houston's “How Will I Know,” and he comes as close to owning a Whitney Houston tune as can be possibly expected. Backed by a keyboard, Smith transforms a dance song into a torchy ballad.

It’s a testament to Sam Smith’s talent, as well as his haunting and emotive vocals that the video currently going viral features him singing a song that is not on his very good album, In The Lonely Hour. Smith covers Whitney Houston's “How Will I Know,” and he comes as close to owning a Whitney Houston tune as can be possibly expected. Backed by a keyboard, Smith transforms a dance song into a torchy ballad.

While listeners won’t hear “I Wanna Know” on In The Lonely Hour, Smith’s arrangement of that song perfectly captures the pensiveness and the longing that characterizes the album’s mood. Smith is the kind of vocalist who wears his desires and insecurities on his sleeve, and those emotions come out through his vocals. That explains why several musical pundits have compared Smith to Adele. Like Adele, Smith is a British singer who took the world by storm with powerful vocals and this passionate yet clear eyed and self-aware lyricism. 

There is one big difference between Smith and Adele. Adele’s 21 sported a bevy of tunes that featured bombastic orchestration – tracks such as “Rolling in the Deep” and “Rumor Has It” come to mind. Smith’s arrangements are more intimate and sparse in most cases.  The album sounds like something a person might play in at those times when anticipation turns to disappointment or when a bunch of thoughts that are best worked out alone fill the mind. That probably explains the album’s title.

Smith’s wide ranging tenor is the definition of honest emotion and vulnerability, and so those simple tracks featuring acoustic guitars or piano and percussion draw the listener in. “Leave Your Lover” is an intimate piece of salesmanship in which the story told in this tune is obvious.  “I don’t have much to give but I don’t care for gold/What use is money when you need someone to hold/Don’t have direction I’m just rolling down this road/waiting for you to bring me in out the cold/”

“Not In That Way” is another acoustic gem that tells a story of unrequited love in which there is no villain. There is just Smith and the person he loves romantically. That person does not feel the same way, but you have to respect the honesty comes through in the tune’s hook. “I’d never ask you/cuz deep down/I’m certain I know what you say/ You’d say I’m sorry/believe me love you/but not in that way.”

Still, don’t get it twisted. Smith proves he’s perfectly capable of making a dance tune and shaking of the blues of having his heart broken. “Restart” is a percussive and funky Michael Jackson styled tune that finds Smith getting over the pain despite a former lover’s attempt to turn the page back.

Smith even manages to work a little humor onto In The Lonely Hour with the hit “La La La.” The track features a recording of a little kid singing “la la la” in a loop, and is Smith’s take on what people do when they’ve stop listening to someone. This track is directed to anyone who has forfeited the right to have their words taken seriously.

In The Lonely Hour starts with the cut “Money on My Mind” where Smith sings that he’s motivated by the love of the art rather than commercial considerations. The quality of the material on In The Lonely Hour assures that Smith will be singing that tune all the way to the bank. Highly Recommended.

By Howard Dukes 

 
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