NEW YORK (AP) — Sam Smith, "The Thrill of It All" (Capitol)
When Sam Smith debuted on the music scene in 2014, he sang beautiful and searing songs about love lapses and loneliness. There are moments you'd feel sad for him, but then you'd remind yourself not to pity the guy too much, because, wow, he has THAT VOICE.
On his sophomore album, he's still singing emotional songs, but his growth is evident. And perfectly executed.
"The Thrill of It All" is simply that — a thrill — as Smith's piecing voice and vivid lyrics tell stories about his relationships and experiences over the last three years — the good, the bad, the sad and more.
"Burning," which hits straight to the heart, is one of the brightest spots on the album, as Smith sings about the after effects once a relationship has ended.
"I've been burning/Yes I've been burning/Such a burden/This flame on my chest," he sings on the piano tune, where a choir — or layered vocals — later comes in, bringing on a chilling feel.
Another highlight is "HIM," where Smith sounds powerful and most confident.
"Don't you try and tell me that God doesn't care for us/It is him I love," he sings in a commanding tone, followed by a choir again — coming in at the right time.
There's not a miss on the 10-track album. "Say It First," about wanting your partner to say they're in love before you do, is soft and relatable, while "No Peace," a duet with unsigned singer YEBBA, is a winner.
There are groovier jams, too, that will move your spirit, including "One Last Song," a song for the ex you're still in love with but need to be away from, and "Baby, You Make Me Crazy," with its sing-a-long hook. At times the latter track sounds like an advice column.
"When the person that you love just says no?/Boy, get yourself together/Move on with your life," he sings.
Smith co-wrote each of the 10 songs, and even recruited new collaborators to help him out. Malay, who has worked with Frank Ocean and Zayn, lends his magic to "Midnight Train" and "Say It First"; Poo Bear, who has written many of Justin Bieber's hits, co-wrote "Burning"; Timbaland co-produced the closing track, "Pray"; and Grammy-nominated country singer Cam co-wrote "Palace." Jimmy Napes, who worked heavily on Smith's debut "In the Lonely Hour" and won the best original song Oscar with the British singer last year, also worked on seven songs.
But at the core of it all, it is Smith, and that voice that emotes the lyrics so perfectly. "The Thrill of It All" is everything, and more.