“If you want to judge me then go and load the gun,” sings Sam Smith on “Young,” the opening track of the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter’s new album, Love Goes. In many ways it reflects the mindset of the album’s creation. Smith entered the studio for their latest release with the lone goal of not setting limitations as an artist, letting creativity and experimentation to lead the way. “Young” is an a cappella track that immediately puts Smith’s soft soothing vocal to the forefront.
“Diamonds” is a sleek and refined upbeat dance track, lush and cinematic without ever pushing over the top. It’s a fresh soundscape for Smith, who might be more associated with dramatic balladry. Love Goes is a weighty effort, featuring 17 tracks and clocking in at just under an hour—seemingly a rarity in the modern landscape of single and EP releases. The album is technically broken into two parts, with the first 11 tracks serving as the main album with the subsequent six considered bonus tracks.
Smith reflects on the new love of a past lover on “Another One,” as they grapple with the rollercoaster of emotions of jealousy to acceptance. Smith’s lyrics are poignant and personal throughout the course of the record. Burna Boy collaboration “My Oasis” mixes a laidback pop foundation with the rap and reggae influence of Burna to create a smooth groove of a track. “Because the second that I’m happy and I’m fine/ Then suddenly there’s violence in movie scenes/ And crying rivers in the streets,” Smith sings on the lyrically spectacular trip through their psyche.
“Dance (‘Til You Love Someone Else)” is upbeat dancehall fare in the truest sense with a pulsing beat and underlying synth. The first true ballad arrives in the form of “For The Lover That I Lost,” which will undoubtedly become a break-up soundtrack for the foreseeable future. Sam Smith sings of a pseudo-memorial for his broken relationship, again leaving an open-ended lyrical outcome as to their true feelings about the lost love.”Breaking Hearts” is intricate and intimate, with little more than finger-snaps, a piano and slight backbeat to supplement Smith’s tender vocal.
The vocal delivery of “Forgive Myself” leans less toward experimentation and more toward a traditional sound, at which Smith simply excels. Labrinth collaboration “Love Goes” presents an interesting dichotomy, with the first three quarters of the song presenting a sparse and atmospheric canvas until the home stretch—when horns, synths and strings fill the soundscape.
The somber and reflective “Kids Again” is an ode to lost youth, while “Dancing With a Stranger” picks the pace back up for a classy mid-tempo pop banger featuring an ace contribution from Normani.
Sam Smith not only collaborated with a number of artists on the album, but also with host of top producers. It’s that spirit of adventure and exportation that keeps the album fresh and varied. “How Do You Sleep?” is dark pop magic with Smith again trying to find themself in the chaos. While many of the songs have weighty emotional subject matter, it never brings things down and the music lifts the mood throughout.
“To Die For” is an expertly delivered track, once again showcasing Smith’s unmatched upper register falsetto. Demi Lovato collaboration “I’m Ready” serves up on the record’s finest moments. Lovato is musically confident and defiant, and Smith plays off of that with an air of dark mystery. The closing moments of the track bring in a choir-like finale. “Fire On Fire,” meanwhile provides another cinematic musical moment, flowing with intricate strings and Smith’s powerful delivery in their vast range.
The closing track, a collaboration with hitmaker Calvin Harris, doesn’t present many sonic surprises—and that’s a good thing because the two uses their vocal prowess to the fullest. The track mixes and ’80s energy with modern styling, creating a fitting moment to take the album home a high note.
Follow writer Mike DeWald at Twitter.com/mike_dewald.