With 17 tracks, Sam Smith’s third studio album was set to release in early 2020 under the title To Die For. But, as Smith said via an NPR interview, “because of what’s happened the last six months, it felt a little bit desensitive calling the album that.” Now titled Love Goes, Smith has ventured into new territory in their latest release. Their new music presents an ideal contrast between their melancholic voice and the upbeat pop and disco sounds. Smith’s familiar themes of heartbreak are present throughout the album, but their shift away from ballads allows for a new facet in their artistry. Accompanied with great features, Love Goes is a statement to Smith’s versatility and evolving musical style.
The contrast between sound and lyrics is most noticeable in “Dance (‘Till You Love Someone Else),” “How Do You Sleep?” and “So Serious.” All three songs present the themes of unfaithfulness, depression and the pain of getting over a lover. In “So Serious,” lyrics such as “’Cause the second that I’m happy and I’m fine/ Suddenly there’s violins and movie scenes/ And cryin’ rivers in the street” speak to being downhearted and experiencing mood swings.
And yet, the melodies have no traces of the blue ballads that made Smith globally known. Instead, the tracks have faster beats reminiscent of pop music, such as in “How Do You Sleep?” or elsewhere, disco music as in “Dance (‘Till You Love Someone Else).” This new duality in Smith’s music allows the listener to experience the lyrics’ sad emotions while maintaining a pleasant mood created by the more joyful melody.
Collaborations with artists such as Labrinth, Normani and Burna Boy add to the versatility of Love Goes. With the cello, trumpet and french horn sounds, Labrinth and Smith create a gradual triumphant energy in the title track. Their collaboration has a tone distinct from other songs in the album and Smith’s prior work. Similarly, Normani and Burna Boy bring a well-executed and unique style to their features. Their collaborations serve as a leeway to Smith’s experimentation with new techniques.
Yet, a feature that adds little value to the album is “I’m Ready” with Demi Lovato. As Smith himself explained via Apple music, “I don’t even know what it is, and I’m not sure if I love it or I hate it.” The track is simply all over the place: Its chorus, resembling an anthem, clashes with the song’s sexier tones and lyrics. Perhaps the only thing worth someone’s time about this song is the music video, which features several contestants from “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Nonetheless, the track’s overwhelming sound is not up to par with the album’s more impressive features.
Beyond the songs that reflect Smith’s new music style, Love Goes also includes traditional ballads such as “For the Lover That I Lost” and “Forgive Myself.” These songs maintain the theme of heartbreak as they discuss mourning a lover and being unable to move on. They are enjoyable but also forgettable in comparison to prior ballads Smith has released. Furthermore, these songs feel out of place for the new style of music presented in Love Goes.
While Smith asked listeners to treat every song as “a different flower from the garden,” each representing a different story, a few tracklist changes would create a more consistent piece of work. Removing or replacing these songs would help the tracklist feel less like an afterthought and create a more cohesive album.
Ultimately, Smith’s departure from his comfort zone looks promising. The majority of Love Goes’ songs maintain the hopeless romantic lyrics Smith is known for, but introduce a well-executed new sound. The album would benefit from not throwing everything onto its tracklist as it does contain six bonus tracks, many of which undermine the overall composition. Still, perhaps as Smith continues to experiment with music, a more cohesive piece of work will follow later in their career. For now, we can take Love Goes for what it is — a mix of songs from an artist experimenting with love and music.
Contact Brany Barragan at [email protected].
Correction: A previous version of this article used incorrect pronouns for Sam Smith on two occasions.