By Hayden Wright
Few 25-year-olds have reached the critical peaks of Sam Smith’s career, and he has hardware to prove it. In 2015 his debut album In the Lonely Hour earned him four GRAMMY Awards including Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best New Artist. He followed that triumph with a Best Song Oscar for “Writing’s on the Wall” from the 007 flick Spectre. As Smith prepares his return with The Thrill of It All, the British singer-songwriter has more to say about love, heartbreak and living out loud.
For his sophomore album, the “Stay With Me” singer says he’s taking themes and sounds in a darker direction.
“This album doesn’t sound pretty to me. I want this to be more gritty,” he recently told Rolling Stone. “I want it to sound older, a bit more uncomfortable. In the Lonely Hour is a gin and tonic with your friends. The new album is a whiskey by yourself in a dark room, at night, thinking about life. I went into a deep place. I don’t think I’m going to go into that place ever again, because it got a bit too deep.”
Fans loved “Too Good at Goodbyes,” the mournful, soulful lead single that doesn’t search for the easy answers of “Stay With Me.” Smith has also shared “Pray” and “Burning” from the album, which continue his melancholic ruminations on love. The singer says “Burning” is his favorite song on the album.
“It’s the most personal song I’ve ever written in my life,” he said during a BBC Radio appearance. “I was going through a really tough time last year. I live in London, and I went through a breakup. And I dealt with the breakup in a bad way, and I was just going out way too much.”
Smith has described the lyrical content of The Thrill of it All as “like a diary,” deeply personal and specific to his own romantic experiences. Over the last few years, Smith has gotten more comfortable sharing his personal life with the world.
“I was 19 when I started writing the first album,” he told The Times. “I’d just moved to London from a village—I was literally the only gay in the village. I didn’t know what I wanted to say…I remember, at the beginning of my career, being called a ‘gay singer,’ and I didn’t want that. I wanted to be seen as a singer first, before people spoke about my private life. And now it’s changed—I’ve changed. I realize that maybe I don’t mind that title.”
The Thrill of It All debuts this Friday in stores and on major streaming platforms.