Maya Angelou said it best. “Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.” Sam Smith couldn’t agree more.
Sam Smith’s recent studio album, The Thrill of it All, delves into every layer of his soul as he sings notes in perfect falsetto. “Pray”, the second single off the album, stands out as a strong form of social commentary as Smith touches on the subject of religion. With a gospel undertone and a choir singing behind him, Smith sings: “You won’t find me in church (no), reading the bible (no), I’m still here and I’m still your disciple.” These words not only allow the listener see another side of Smith, but also reflects the pain of seeking a higher power when all else is lost as he sings “Everyone prays in the end.”
Similar to this deep cut song, “HIM”, the only song in all caps on the album, also takes on a conversation with the “holy father.” According to NPR, Smith wrote this song to speak on all of the “coming out stories,” including his own. As he sings, “I walk the streets of Mississippi, I hold my lover by the hand, I feel you staring when he is with me, how can I make you understand,” he relays the feeling of disapproval coming from what can be presumed as God, but also his own father as result of his sexuality. Like “Pray”, this song is also produced with a choir singing behind it.
“Burning”, the third single off the album takes on a different tone compared to “HIM” and “Pray” as it delves into the pain of heartbreak. Singing “You reached a limit, I wasn’t enough, it’s like the fire replaced all the love,” Smith depicts a tenure similar to that of In the Lonely Hour. Smith spoke to NPR and said “Burning” was his favorite song off the album as he not only got to speak about a broken relationship, but also got to reflect on how fame negatively impacts relationships.
One of the more upbeat songs, “Baby, You Make Me Crazy”, talks about Smith moving on from a loved one as he sings “I’m gonna play my favourite rhythm, got to get you out my system, I would do anything to keep you off my mind.” Though the song diverges from the gospel influenced tracks like “Pray” and “Him”, it still highlights Smith’s beautiful falsettos.
As for “Scar”, the last song on the record, Smith talks about the growth his family went through. Talking about his mom and dad, he expresses how their reconciliation and love helped him “clear up his scars” as he sings, “I hope you’re proud, Mother, of what you’ve done….I hope you’re proud, Father, of what you’ve done.”
With all this lyrical genius and beautiful production, The Thrill of it All might just be one of the best albums of the year. Taking on the emotions of a broken heart and the journey to self acceptance, Sam Smith really captured something special.