“Put your hands in the air if you sometimes ever get sad like me,” Sam Smith urges in “So Serious,” one in all the triumphantly forlorn songs on their third studio album, “Love Goes.” (Smith’s most well-liked pronouns are they/their.) Romance is all that issues in Smith’s musical universe. Love is all-important and all-consuming, even — maybe particularly — when it’s going mistaken. Obsession prevails, much more than ardour.
Smith’s voice is a prodigious instrument: a pearly, androgynous croon, directly highly effective and defenseless. On “Love Goes” it’s deployed, as regular, to replicate on loneliness, longing and remorse. Yet greater than ever, Smith’s music is conscious that at the same time as the songs discover being alone, a mass viewers is listening. The sound of “Love Goes” is sweeping and luxurious: intimacy blown as much as cinematic scale. Each tune feels elaborately hewed.
On “Love Goes,” Smith collaborated along with his frequent songwriting accomplice James Napier; with Scandinavian pop specialists like Stargate, Shellback and Linus Wiklund; and with Guy Lawrence from the dance-music duo Disclosure (who featured Smith on early singles). They constructed neatly structured, instantly legible pop tracks that open up arena-sized reverberations and typically beckon towards the dance ground.
Many of Smith’s new songs additionally stir in a robust new emotion: the resentment of a lover betrayed. The bile and the beat reduce by means of the self-pity, although it wouldn’t be a Sam Smith album and not using a good wallow or 5.
“Breaking Hearts” is one in all them. A Sam Cooke-tinged soul hymn written with Napier, it mourns by means of its recriminations. “You got caught,” Smith sings with equal elements accusation and melancholy, on the approach to a refrain — “While you were busy breaking hearts/I was busy breaking — that allows itself some fingersnaps but can’t push away its sorrows. In “Another One,” Smith sings to an ex with honeyed sarcasm (“Oh congratulations, you found the one”) and sounds relieved that “I dodged a bullet”; quickly, as a four-on-the-floor thump materializes, Smith tells the ex how significantly better he ought to have behaved.
“Diamonds” instantly indicts an ex whose intentions turned out to be purely materialistic. “Now I know just what you love me for,” Smith sings, taunting, “Show me how little you care.” The beat locations the tune in the lineage of indignant disco kiss-offs like Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” but there’s additionally an ache in Smith’s voice, admitting to some self-deception: “Think I always knew,” Smith admits. “Dance (’Til You Love Someone Else)” mixes classic electro and disco — even a string part — with 21st-century vocal manipulations, as Smith determinedly seeks a rebound: “Someone get me over it,” they beg.
The album’s title tune, “Love Goes,” is a pre-emptive strike, a breakup earlier than issues get too severe. Like a lot of Smith’s songs, it begins with a lone keyboard enjoying easy patterns; the manufacturing makes clear that it’s a loop, not an individual. “You’re broken, we know that,” the singer realizes. “And if you knew it you won’t fight me when I say farewell.” It’s all only a handful of devices and an intimate vocal till, abruptly, it’s not: enter a brass ensemble, wide-open voices, massed strings. The private interplay abruptly turns into a public show, with the energy of pop.