In a sea of European crooners a la John Newmann, Olly Murs and Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith is the ship boasting the biggest sails. Though his persona, austere with a bashful demeanor, it’s his silver, needle-like voice that holds his listeners in his clenches until each final, effortlessly-strained, word is heard.
The opening track to Smith’s freshman release is the unimpressive “Money On My Mind.” While the song may not be his best, it serves as an important stark contrast from the rest of his album, needed to explain how he is not in it for the money, but rather for the love. The love (or lack there of) is quite evident on the remaining 13 tracks.
Not since Amy Winehouse’s five-time Grammy award winning album “Back To Black” has their been such a flawless attempt at producing a soul-pop album that leaves the listener to question which is, in fact, the stand out track.
While Smith’s vocal range dominates both guitar strings and house production, it is the mid-tempo, gospel-influenced “Stay With Me,” and the intensely crescendoed “Lay Me Down,” where his chilling tone roars goosebumps to the skin of his listeners.
Whether it is the sarcastically-vengeful “I’m Not the Only One,” that makes listeners almost wish for their lovers’ betrayal or “Restart” (which sounds like a leftover from Quincey Jones’ and Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall” studio sessions), each track off of his LP boast their own identities.
Smith is a mimic of some sorts, but not in a negative way. He cites Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder and Chaka Khan as his biggest influences and in a seemingly impossible way, he has vocally-surpassed each of them. Unembarrassed to sound feminine, Smith’s falsetto convinces his listeners to share in his sorrows of being on the short end of unrequited love.
With the silent charisma of Frank Sinatra and the comparable vocal power of Whitney Houston, at the age of 23, Sam Smith is the greatest voice of the last 20 years–with his debut attempt “In The Lonely” Hour as the proof.