After winning the BRITs Critics Choice Award and topping the BBC Sound Poll, the first full record from Smith was always bound to land under the heavy weight of expectation despite the singer’s relative inexperience.
The artist doesn't disappoint in the beginning anyway, opening with massive hit ‘Money On My Mind’. The enticing, fast-paced back beat lays the perfect foundation for the artist’s highly-rated vocals, combining simple but effective electronic and instrumental producing with Smith’s signature vocal range to produce a tune which just doesn't get old fast.
‘Good Thing’ moves slowly and intricately, offering up an emotional ballad-style number from the artist that wouldn't look out of place on Broadway with its mix of emotive lyrics and a backing made up of soft guitar and piano but featuring strong strings on occasion too.
The soulful vibes continue on latest single ‘Stay With Me’, a single so slow-burning, vocal orientated and piano driven that it attracted many comparisons to Adele. These comparisons, however, are lazy. Where Adele blasts her vocals in an in-your-face manner, Smith is more subtle, driving his songs with calm but assertive vocals that reach a diverse range of keys.
This is a template that continues through tuneful old school love song ‘Leave Your Lover’ and the emotive ‘I’m Not The Only One’. ‘I’ve Told You Now’ follows on from this too – there’s a lot of slow moving songs featuring sweet vocals hitting high pitch notes and floating over calm, inoffensive backings. After a while, it leaves you wanting for a little bit more, for that extra something to make each track stand out from the next. But that extra something doesn't particularly arrive.
‘Like I Can’ picks up the pace a little with a thumping bassline driving the song to begin with, but it all gets pretty poppy and mundane again when the chorus kicks in, with the Sam Smith signature high pitched notes and hints of a choir entering in behind the vocals.
The album closes out rather unimpressively, repeating what it had offered up from the middle onwards. All impressive vocally, these are tracks that if taken out as a single may stand up well, but when listened to as a continuous record become cyclical and somewhat dull. By the time ‘Not In That Way’ and ‘Lay Me Down’ finished off the album, there was more a feeling of relief remaining than of the excitement brought forward by the first few tracks on the record.
Verdict: ‘Money on My Mind’ is a thrilling combination of cracking vocals and a fun soundtrack, but the bulk of the other tracks on Sam Smith’s debut album are repetitive, and the lack of energy in anything but the singing becomes monotonous. You can sing Sam, we get it. Now make it entertaining.