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Inside Beat

Sam Smith's new album 'Love Goes' is about love, heartbreak

Sam Smith is a singer who is considered to be one of the best vocalists of our time. They are best known for their hits "Stay With Me" and "I'm Not the Only One."  – Photo by Popcrave / Twitter

Sam Smith just released their third studio album, “Love Goes,” featuring 17 total tracks spanning two discs. Originally set to drop on May 1st under the name “To Die For,” the album was pushed back due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and released on Oct. 30.

When asked about the album’s name change on The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 2 in April, the singer said, “My album had the word 'die' in the title, which I just felt really uncomfortable with, with what's happening, and it's so important for me to be sensitive to my fans and to people listening to my music.”

The singer first announced the album in October 2019, then pre-released multiple singles ahead of the drop, including their smash-hit “Dancing With A Stranger” featuring Normani and the title track “Diamonds” released back in September.

Noticeably, "Love Goes" is about the aftermath of heartache. In an interview with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe, Smith said, “I'd say (“Love Goes” was) the first proper time I've been actually heartbroken … The (other albums) were the idea of it, and it was pure unrequited love. This, I would like to say that we loved each other. So, I definitely, definitely loved him. So yeah, it was proper.”

In tracks like “Young,” “Another One” and “Kids Again,” Smith’s soulful lyricism comes out in full force as they reflect on life and lost love. In “Kids Again,” Smith opens with the line, “Can't believe I still avoid the East Side / Even though I know that you don't live there now,” alluding to their first relationship with Jonathan Zeizel, a resident of the East Side, whom they met on the set of the music video for “Like I Can.”

The album, like Smith’s previous projects, is personal and intimate. The songs convey raw emotion using the singer’s signature features — beautifully belted notes, clean pop synths and majestic strings. 

Yet, for all the similarities to past works, Smith also brought something new to their repertoire with this release. From the artwork alone, it’s clear that the musician took a different approach for this album. This latest cover art blooms with vibrant greens and yellows as Smith lies in the grass, a long way off from the past two albums, “In the Lonely Hour” and “The Thrill of It All,” which featured a monochromatic, grayscale aesthetic.

Perhaps the vibrance of the album art was meant to reflect the vibrance of musical flavors in “Love Goes.” The project sees Smith depart from their usual style of melancholy ballads, and instead, throwing a variety of pop, funk, rhythm and blues (R&B) and disco sounds into the mix. As a result, the album as a whole suffers from a bit of musical disarray as each song flows from one to the next, never following any one sonic theme.

But that might just be the point. In this era of streaming and singles, the diversity of “Love Goes” works well to show off Smith’s range as an artist and reflects a sense of confidence as Smith traverses the various sounds with ease.

On the Zach Sang Show, Smith said, “I showed everyone (the album) and everyone loved it. I feel like it’s almost given me permission to kinda do what I’ve always dreamed of doing but I was always scared to do, which is pop music.” This album is definitely on the poppier side, with the track “Breaking Hearts,” not quite as crooning or emotional as is suggested by the title.

Smith’s duets with other artists in “Love Goes” especially push the boundaries of their usual range of genres. In “My Oasis,” featuring Burna Boy, Smith added some Latin flare. In “Promises” with Calvin Harris, the singer plays with heavy synth production and a throbbing EDM (electronic dance music) beat in what is probably the most out of place song on the entire album.

An album highlight, “Love Goes,” featuring Labrinth, the composer of the score of HBO hit series “Euphoria,” is a rollercoaster of a song. The track starts by treating listeners to a beautifully haunting piano melody, reminiscent of a children’s lullaby, before launching into a drumbeat with Labrinth’s steady vocals over top and later still, a blaring brass instrumental.

The track harkens back to Beyoncé’s stunning performance in “Homecoming” and the marching band pump music that defined the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival performance of the decade.

In the same interview with Lowe, Smith explained that they channeled their inner pop diva to cope with heartbreak in writing this album. They said, “I was like, 'The only way I'm going to get off my a** and get out of bed is if I channel my Beyoncé, if I channel my Christina and all these divas and I turned to them.'”

In “So Serious,” on the other hand, Smith copes with heartbreak by embracing their saddest thoughts and letting themself feel free through acceptance. Likewise, the song “Forgive Myself” sees Smith acknowledge that loving someone else starts with loving oneself. The two songs represent an overarching motif of introspection running throughout the album.

“Love Goes” is a story of falling in and out of love that takes the listener on a journey as Smith bares their emotions through all of it, singing of pain, longing and healing. They affirm their identity as a young, LGBTQ+ person going through the ups and downs of life, ultimately arriving at a place of contentment with the fact that love, indeed, comes and goes.

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