After the success of 2017’s ‘The Thrill of It All’, it seemed uncertain where Sam Smith would take things with their next studio album.
The answer to that soon came with the song ‘Dancing With A Stranger’ in 2019, which featured Normani on vocals and marked Smith’s first solo foray into dance-pop.
Almost two years since then, after multiple other singles and an unfortunate album delay, the British balladeer’s third studio album ‘Love Goes’ finally arrives today. At a lean 11 tracks on the standard version, the album sees Smith blend the ballads they’re familiar with alongside poppier, more upbeat tracks.
On the previously released ‘Diamonds’, Smith puts their own spin on a sound of pop characterised by artists like The Weeknd, with a little help from producers Shellback (Taylor Swift, Tove Lo), and OzGo (Troye Sivan, Allie X). The slow burn ‘Another One’, produced by Guy Lawrence of Disclosure fame, is a lush EDM ballad that sees Smith wish a past lover well.
The club-ready ‘Dance (‘Til You Love Someone Else)’ is a standout moment on the album. Smith has shown that they have what it takes to command the dancefloor (see: their cover of the Donna Sumer classic ‘I Feel Love‘) and ‘Dance’ further cements this. “Hey, confide in me / Wrap your arms around me, baby / They say you can’t fall out of love ’til you love someone else,” Smith sings atop euphoric synths and strings.
Much of the album, however, sees Smith falling back on familiar territory. A trio of songs, ‘For The Lover That I Lost’, ‘Breaking Hearts’ and ‘Forgive Myself’, sound plucked from Smith’s earlier discography. That Smith plays to his strengths is welcome, but the songs sound uninspired on an album that begins with some semblance of new directions. Title track ‘Love Goes’, though given the Labyrinth treatment, still plays its safe, and ultimately falls victim to being repetitive.
Album closer ‘Kids Again’ makes for a compelling look into what direction Smith might head in next. Reminiscent of Lady Gaga’s ‘Million Reasons’ and Harry Styles’ ‘Sign of the Times’, the anthemic soft rock ballad sees Smith ruminate about the brevity of youth and innocence. “Do you even think about it? / The way that we changed the world / And don’t it make you sad / That we’ll never be kids again?,” they sing.
Where on opener ‘Young’ Smith wished to go back to days of innocence, on ‘Kids Again’ they seem to have come to terms with leaving that in the past. It’s clear that ‘Love Goes’ is meant to be an album about innocence lost through love and subsequent heartbreak, and Smith has always excelled at making such experiences seem universal for the masses. Sonically, however, ‘Love Goes’ suffers from a lack of consistency, one that is sadly unable to masquerade as a mere case of experimentation.