Album review: Sam Smith – In the Lonely Hour
Sam Smith In the Lonely Hour (Capitol)
Two stars ⋆⋆
After rising to prominence as the soulful guest voice powering hits from Disclosure and Naughty Boy, Sam Smith’s plaintive brand of modern R&B-flecked singing and songwriting is very much of the moment. Indeed, two singles from the 22-year-old Londoner’s self-proclaimed “sad” debut album have already topped his native charts: Money on my Mind and Stay with Me. The love-over-dosh sentiment behind the former seems less genuine, however, once you learn that his mother had a lucrative career as a London City banker. The latter hits home truer, with a gospel-tastic chorus and sweeping strings. Yet, elsewhere, only the uplifting, piano-led slink of I’m Not the Only One really stands out among hackneyed lyrical content on love and longing; his high-pitched vocal extremes and fairly basic grasp of rhyming couplets both soon begin to rankle, too. And while In the Lonely Hour’s superficially emotional content should see it soundtracking several dozen montages of World Cup losers and the like this summer, that hints at the crux of our concerns: Smith feels like a voice for the moment, rather than one for the ages.