Sam Smith’s ‘The Thrill of It All’ feels bland and generic

Annie Zaleski

Two and a half stars

Sam Smith The Thrill of it all

On The Thrill of It All, Sam Smith checks off all the soul music boxes—twinkling piano, curving strings, breezy horns, heartbroken lyrics—with the same care he brought to 2014 debut In the Lonely Hour. Yet these timeless signifiers feel curiously shallow this time around, perhaps because the music and arrangements are bland and generic.

The Thrill of It All succeeds most when Smith lets his guard down. On “Him,” a defiant statement about openly and honestly loving someone even if others disapprove, he uses a solemn, velvety low tone on the powerful lines, “Don’t you try and tell me that God doesn’t care for us/It is him I love.” The protagonist of “Midnight Train” wants out of a relationship despite guilt over disavowing gratitude (“Am I a monster?/What will your family think of me?”). And the album ends on a strong note with “Pray,” a Timbaland- and gospel choir-assisted R&B number that finds Smith dipping into his upper and lower range to reflect on faith. In such moments, Smith genuinely connects with the material, rather than just skimming along the emotional surface.

Tags: Music, Album
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