London born Sam Smith first appeared on the track “Latch” with UK dance duo ‘Disclosure’ in 2012 and then on the number one song by Naughty Boy “La La La” in which he featured as the vocalist. It would have been safe to assume at this point that Smith was going to lean towards a house/pop sound as he went forward.
When “Latch” was released I had no idea what Sam Smith looked like. For me it could have been a black man, or even a woman. So to say appearances can be deceiving certainly is an understatement as the young Smith looks nothing like what you would expect with a voice such as his.
The selling point of Sam Smith is his voice. The problem with this is that if you are indifferent or just plain dislike his vocal then you are pretty much done with the Sam Smith package. There seems little else to him and if he continues to release future albums which are as ballad heavy as “In the lonely hour” his appeal will soon wane.
“In The Lonely Hour” starts with the first single “Money On My Mind”. This is one of the few upbeat songs on the album and after the success of “La La La” this seemed like a good choice to go with. Smith talks about the last year or so of his life and his record deal. He is simply telling the world he is doing this for the love of music and not just make money. A nice sentiment if a little worn out.
I like “Money on my mind” until the chorus” The high pitch computer filtered screech of “Moaaannnaaa on my miiinnnd” is not pleasant and ill judged.
After the upbeat opener we get a strum of acoustic guitar for the track “Good Thing”. Smith in his lyrics seems to have the penchant for the dramatic and his first line of this song sets that theme:
I had a dream I was mugged outside your house
I had a dream in a panic you came running out
This song like most of the songs on the album are about Smith being in love but the person he is in love with does not feel the same.
The massive hit “Stay With Me” is the third track. It’s a song most are now familiar with and has become his signature song.
The track seems to be about Smith having a one night stand but being so fragile he sees this as more than that and wants the person in question to stay with him. Smith is aware of how desperate he is standing with the question he asks himself:
“Why am I so emotional?
No, it’s not a good look, gain some self-control”
The melody of the song is so similar to Tom Petty “Won’t back down” that Petty actually filed a claim which was upheld and Tom Petty now has a songwriting credit of this song, much to the dismay of Smith.
After two serious and emotional tracks I would have liked to see the tone change a little going into track 4. Smith has been labelled as the ‘male Adele’ which is lazy comparison for the most part but he doesn’t help himself with so many emotional ballads.
“Leave Your Lover” follows the same theme as “Good Thing” as he is pouring his heart out and asking this person to leave his current partner for him.
“Not The Only One” was the third single taken from the album. I like the piano rift throughout the song and it’s certainly a catchy melody. Smith sounds stronger on this song as he is more confident in the point he is trying to make. He letting his partner know that he is aware he is cheating and has him on the back foot. Certainly one of the stronger songs on the set.
“I’ve Told You Now” is a track I had heard sometime before the album’s release. It had featured on his EP released before the albums release (which included the delectable track ‘Nirvana’ which should have been included on here). This track is as middle of the road as you will get but saved by a chorus where Smith’s voice gives it a little bit more interest.
“Like I Can” was also released as a single. Sometimes you just get a song that you dislike and it’s hard to find reason. This for me is one of them. It’s soulless, and lyrically generic.
“There may be lovers who hold out their hands
But they’ll never love you like I can, can, can”
Track 8 is “Life Support”. With its Timbaland style beats the song is dull is really just filler.
“Not In That Way” is Smith’s attempt again to tell us about this person who he loves that doesn’t feel the same way. I believe he nails it better than on the other tracks. He explains that whilst he is in love with this person he is fully aware of what he is going to say back to him which is:
“I’d never ask you ’cause deep down I’m certain I know what you’d say
You’d say, “I’m sorry, believe me, I love you but not in that way.”
“Lay Me Down” finishes the album off. This is a song that Smith had been playing live for a number of years. The version of the song orginally put out (long before this album) certainly had a more soulful sound to it with the bridge being similar to a number of Neo Soul tunes more akin to your Maxwell’s or Anthony Hamiltons.
The song for “In the Lonely Hour” was mixed differently with too much over production for my liking. The song retains all of the lyrics and for the most part sounds the same but the subtle difference I hear makes it inferior.
The deluxe edition of the album carries on with four extra songs which include the superior tracks.
“Restart” co written with Zane Lowe of BBC Radio is upbeat and Smith sounds superb. The song loses its away after the 2:30 mark a little but for me it proves that Smith is much more interesting singing upbeat dance songs.
“Latch” is included in an acoustic form. It’s almost unrecognizable from the Disclousure version but Smith really puts on emphasis on a great love song.
“La La La” is included but sounds so out of place. The track is one I am a firm favourite of but it doesn’t belong on “In The Lonely Hour” in any shape of form. It’s production and style of song says to me “Oh this is what I can do but I hope you enjoyed my Adele tribute”.
The deluxe edition finish with “Make It To Me”. This is a much more interesting ballad than just about anything on the normal edition.
He is honest and he should have said this right at the beginning:
“So sick of this lonely air
It seems such a waste of breath
So much that I need to say
So much to get off my chest”
I have no problem with ballads. It’s just when you get an artist like Sam Smith who shows some real quality on upbeat songs (as has done again recently with the moody ‘Omen’ with Disclosure) to bring an album out so full of yearning desperate love songs it seems a bit of a waste.
I suspect maybe I am being harsh and that I am missing the point as the album is supposed to be his platform to pour his heart out about this aspect of his life but I do hope he will move slightly away from the slow route and show us a little more.
But there is room for optimism and I believe Smith hasn’t got out of second gear just yet. The rating I give is based on the normal version.