Sam Smith: In the Lonely Hour review – likable but unconvincing sad songs

(Capitol)

Last year, Sam Smith told the Observer he wanted to write an album for those who have never been in love. Having never "physically experienced" it himself, he was keen to give voice to the dejected. While his debut certainly wallows in sadness, he forgets that true misery is more than just rhyming couplets about pain and rain – it's an angry, unstable emotion, too. Where this LP fails is in its safeness: Smith has a gorgeous, expressive voice, but there's not enough rawness to "do an Adele", nor enough eeriness to follow Frank Ocean. The Brits Critics' Choice and BBC Sound of 2014 winner masters a modern sound – drawing from Ed Sheeran's intonation on Leave Your Lover, Emeli Sandé's gospel reverence during Stay With Me and often the Jessie J school of over-phrasing ("serr-tun"), and while he has talent and likability, it's a shame this album is not a little freakier, a little riskier – a little lonelier.

Contributor

Harriet Gibsone

The GuardianTramp

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