Sam Smith has been known for their freewheeling yet nonthreatening pop sound. However, Smith has become something new with their new album.
The album, released by Capitol Records on Oct. 30, features 17 tracks of varying lengths within the range of two to five minutes and encompassing approximately 57 minutes. The album was originally to be titled “To Die For” and to be released in June, but complications related to the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the album’s released. Smith said that they felt “insensitive” about using the word die in such a volatile time in which people are dying from a novel disease.
Smith’s career up to this point was filled with mostly easy-to-listen-to yet ultimately uninspiring ballads. Such hits like “Writing’s on the Wall” from the James Bond movie Spectre or “Stay With Me.” This album is decidedly a different turn from that perception. The British singer-songwriter is reaching a point of evolution with this third studio album. One of the singles released before the album, “How Do Your Sleep?” is a perfect example of this evolution. Gone are the gospel inspired lamentations. Sam Smith has evolved into someone trying to profit off their sex appeal. In the music video, they move with sensual power, flanked by scantily clad dancers. The music is most certainly a reflection of this. It is also worthy to note that this was essentially Smith’s coming out song. The 28-year-old singer came out as nonbinary, including a change to they/them pronouns, after this single released. With this declaration, Smith became one of the only out and proud nonbinary singers in the music industry with relative fame.
With the splendid precede that “How Do You Sleep?” delivered, “Love Goes” still manages to fall on its face. The singer has split the album into two chunks although a clear use of sequencing between them is practically non-existent. Smith opens with tracks such as “Young,” “Diamonds,” and “Another One,” all emulating very clear electronica or mild house music sounds to great effect but then transitions to wistful ballads again. Their evolution isn’t perfect. That would be a miracle in and of itself. These ballads almost feel robotic or calculated. They seem like they were put on the album to keep fans of Smith’s earlier work happy and not alienate too many fans with newer styles and presentations. That is a serious problem with LGBTQ people in the music industry. Record labels’ only job is to market an artist’s music to the most amount of people often causing them to cave to the pressures from the fringes of society. I’m not saying that Smith isn’t proud of every track on the album, but I imagine that they wanted to move the work in a different, more queer-friendly direction and the marketing department at Capitol Records said, “No way!”
Smith clearly shines when they are allowed to express themselves freely, not put together a product that will be pleasing to every ear. In the future, Smith should do more like the first half and save the mushy, pitiful ballads to anyone else. “Love Goes” receives a B-minus rating.