In the close-up portrait cover art of The Thrill Of It All, Sam Smith doesn’t actually look thrilled. Not even rapt. I’d say ‘perturbed’. But that’s because he’s taking stock; the lyrics to the album’s title track allude to his debut and its consequences: “I never thought I’d learn so much from being lonely,” he sings, and in the chorus: “I got lost in the thrill of it all.”
On his second LP, Smith again allows his voice do its luminous thing, with chiefly just piano, gospel back-up choirs and subtle beats that sound like a heart’s gentle thumps to accompany him. Stand-out HIM turns up the force, first with appeals and then admonishments, Smith pleading “It is him I love, it is him” and “Don’t you try to tell me that God doesn’t care for us” cresting over pounding Genghis Khan drums. Following the threads of how he came to be in the charmed/cursed position he’s found himself, The Thrill Of It All as a whole is a mix of vulnerable ballads, resilient anthems and sweet, lighter moments (the cute One Last Song, a doo-wop milkshake diner waltz), with not a lot of space wasted. Whatever you feel for the guy’s music, you cannot accuse him of being apathetic: he’s put his guts into every single line.
The Thrill Of It All is out now via EMI.