Third Time’s the Charm with Sam Smith’s "Love Goes"
Sam Smith's artistry has always been most interesting when partnered with electronic soundscapes.
On Sam Smith's third LP, Love Goes, the singer excels at exploring the LED glow and disco ball glitter of dance pop and electronica.
Case in point: Despite its release prior to the pop singer's 2014 debut full-length, The Lonely Hour, Smith's critically acclaimed collaboration with Disclosure on "Latch" will forever feel like their most charismatically experimental performance (though the artist has had consistent commercial success since then).
Similarly, Smith's feature on Naughty Boy's smash "La La La" (2013) still has the power to put listeners under a spell that can take anyone back to the club well past 4 AM, inducing a trance that holds up even years later.
Sam Smith, Labrinth - Love Goes (Audio)www.youtube.com
The same can be said of the dance tracks on Smith's newest album, Love Goes, where the artist—mostly on their own—embraces their glitter dance pop and electronica more fully than ever before. The world heard a flicker of Smith's EDM expertise on the Calvin Harris-produced "Promises" on "Dancing with a Stranger," a duet with Normani. These two fairly old but equally silky-smooth singers both managed to make the side-two cut of Smith's latest 17-track project, proving that Smith stands by his adventures in to EDM (and for good reason).
But the magic of Smith's explorations in electronica hardly stops at high-profile collaborations. Instead, a refreshingly light up-tempo magnetism leaks throughout all of Love Goes. Though the album is far from flawless, its overall groove—as opposed to the artist's usual mellow brood—makes it Smith's best work so far.
"Diamonds" and "Another One," two cuts appearing early in the collection, remind us that there's something entrancing and incomparably cool about the singer's clear, androgynous tenor–particularly when it's paired with breakbeats, four-on-the-floor, and any beat exceeding 90 BPM. "My Oasis" is another instance of Smith's moody but mesmeric swagger, which is complemented by the steez of none other than Burna Boy and his afrobeat energy.
Of these three kick-starting tracks, "Another One" and "My Oasis" are especially magnificent. The latter is one of the strongest of the album's singles, while the former pulsates with silvery instrumentation and Smith's typically relatable, heartbreak-focused lyricism.
There's nothing wrong with that signature broken-heartedness—in fact, that type of storytelling feels more urbane when juxtaposed against sounds that makes listeners want to carouse out of misery, if only for three minutes. Indeed, on "Dance ('Til You Love Someone Else)," the singer offers a pathway to escape through great dance music, illustrated by the song's refrain: "They say you can't fall out of love 'til you love someone else, oh / Guess I'll dance, dance, dance, dance, 'til then."
But not all of Love Goes's best bits are crafted for dancing the night away. Both "So Serious" and "Kids Again" are mid-tempo (but entirely different-sounding) achievements that exemplify not only Smith's profound self-awareness but their growing talent for dabbling in the unexpected.
"Kids Again" could possibly even be considered country-pop, if Smith were less influenced by blue-eyed soul and more by the likes of Kacey Musgraves, or even if they threw on a faux twang a là Taylor Swift. The composition is a wildly gorgeous, photographic end to the first side of Love Goes, with big, swirling instrumentation that's as wide-eyed and melancholic as childhood dreams.
Sam Smith - Kids Againwww.youtube.com
Still, this third record doesn't fully alienate the bulk of Sam Smith diehards, which include those who have loved him from day one and those who love the comparatively earnest, hushed sounds of the singer's well-established M.O. However, those expected, perhaps even predictable, moments are also the most forgettable.
"For the Lover That I Lost" is a forlorn ballad that Smith carries with more dexterity than Celine Dion. Written by Smith, along with frequent collaborators Jimmy Napes and Stargate, the track first appeared on the adult contemporary queen's 2019 album, Courage, but even in Smith's hands, it's not a tear-jerking performance (or anything we haven't heard from Smith a dozen times before).
"Breaking Hearts" and "Forgive Myself" are also uninspiring, while side two's "I'm Ready" is a Demi Lovato collaboration that stirs sentiments of...absolute nothingness inside—although it does serve to remind us all that pairing two pop titans together doesn't automate creative synergy, even if both artists are equipped with star-power and stellar pipes.
However, even with its gaffes—and admittedly, there are only a few—Love Goes is a triumph and hopefully the beginning of a new era for one of this generation's most vocally gifted pop talents.
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