Before laying down the vocals for Disclosure’s “Latch,” Sam Smith was no more than another ordinary garage band vocalist. Carving his path as a feature singer, Smith has begun to make a name for himself with his own singles, “Stay With Me” and “Money on My Mind,” both peaking at No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart. After his awards BBC’s Sound of 2014 and the Brit’s Critics Choice, Smith releases his debut studio album In The Lonely Hour.
Writing an album for those “who have never been in love,” Smith emits feelings of repressed sadness as his loveless experiences resonate through his passionate falsetto. The attitude on his tracks exudes pain and loneliness as the story in his lyrics resemble an angry young adult’s diary. It’s dramatic but gorgeously composed and utterly expressive. As Smith intended, In The Lonely Hour doesn’t ascribe to a specific genre.The composition in combination with Smith’s vocals is atypical of the radio-pop heard today. The album is slow and less predictable — too acoustic to be pop and too mellow to be R&B.
Similar to his Brit’s Critics Choice predecessor Tom Odell, Smith treats love as an illimitable journey that is too safe in sound. In The Lonely Hour excels in modern music but fails to be experimental. The recordings are comfortable and subtle. He relies on his natural tone — avoiding the use of heavy pitch correction — but his voice on this album will bore more than a few ears, as it is not raw enough to stand out without extraordinary instrumentals. “Lay Me Down” is one of the few hits that showcases Smith’s powerful voice, but it is also the song that emphasizes the unoriginality of the album. For a debut, it is a likable album that sets Sam Smith on a positive trajectory, but it also creates a future that will need diversity to continue.