Heartbreak has been a recurrent theme in Sam Smith’s bag of musical tricks, but things have clearly changed. The non-binary Smith has already described their fourth album as a “coming of age”, and it’s difficult to disagree; these songs evince a more well-rounded and emotionally mature songwriter.
Self-worth and self-love is a big concept among these songs: No God decries small-minded homophobes, while the strummed How to Cry is a break-up song without the heartache, instead unleashing a scathing torrent of pity upon a former flame.
Amid the empowerment and independence are a couple of musical bangers – not least Unholy, a sultry collaboration with German pop star Kim Petras that booms, clatters and pings in all the right places.
Lose You blends dark disco with contemporary house music and recalls Smith’s early collaborations with Disclosure; the enjoyably schmoozy 1980s funk-pop of I’m Not Here to Make Friends nods to Luther Vandross in his pomp.
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There are a few duds in the mix, though: the dancehall-flavoured Gimme adds frivolity to the tracklist, but sounds shoehorned in solely to tick the “versatility” box. The Ed Sheeran-augmented Who We Love is the worst thing here, despite its noble lyrical sentiment: musically bland, insipid and entirely unnecessary, it only serves to highlight the dramatic difference between Smith’s and Sheeran’s voices.
Gloria comes close to excellence more than once, but Smith’s opus has yet to arrive. Samsmithworld.com