Vulnerability is Sam Smith’s Strength on ‘Love Goes’

Courtesy of Capitol RecordsSam Smith's third album, "Love Goes," released Oct. 30.

If there’s one thing Sam Smith excels at, it’s writing breakup songs. The British balladeer, who uses they/them pronouns, dropped their third album, “Love Goes,” Oct. 30. Theatrical and intimate, it’s a whopper of a record with 17 tracks. The first 11 are new releases, while the last six are previous singles released in the last two years. 

The album leads with “Young,” a stripped-down a capella song about longing for a carefree young-adulthood away from the public eye. “If you want to judge me / Then go and load the gun / I’ve done nothing wrong, I’m young,” Smith asserts defiantly, but their tone is raw and forlorn. Accompanied only by a swirl of echoey layered harmonies, Smith sounds truly alone.

That melancholy sound gains an undercurrent of spite in lead single “Diamonds,” which Smith dubbed “a sexy exorcism” in the Apple Music album notes. Smith plays the role of a jilted lover bidding good riddance to a materialistic ex, purging every memory from their home.

“Take all the money you want from me / Hope you become what you want to be / Show me how little you care,” Smith taunts over an infectiously funky bassline. 

The record slips smoothly into soft steel drums and Spanish guitar on “My Oasis,” a seductive dance-pop track that ripples like a wave of heat rising off a sand dune. Nigerian afro-fusion artist Burna Boy lends husky vocals to the hypnotic track, which deals with feeling helpless in the face of overpowering attraction.

The title track “Love Goes” is a duet with R&B artist Labrinth, whose gentle, velvety vocals blend well with Smith’s soulful tenor. The track starts with lilting, pensive piano, building slowly as the beat kicks in from underneath and background vocals float by. The bridge takes a subtly jazzy detour before exploding into majestic, triumphant trumpet and swooping symphonies, heralding the end of a relationship that just wasn’t working.

Listeners looking for heart-rending piano ballads needn’t despair, as Smith delivers several throughout the record. “For The Lover That I Lost” reminisces over bittersweet memories, while “Breaking Hearts” deals with quiet depression and simmering anger in the aftermath of a split. 

“Forgive Myself” depicts the all-consuming anguish that comes with the collapse of a relationship. Attempts to move on are hamstrung by the desperate hope for a reunion. 

“Now my heart is broken and I’m crying on the floor / And every part of me hopes you walk through the door,” Smith confesses.

The final six songs on the record include the smash hit “Dancing With A Stranger,” featuring Normani, and other previous releases like “How Do You Sleep?” and the Demi Lovato collab “I’m Ready.”

Exclusive to the Target editions are “Sober,” which examines the heartache that comes with loving someone who struggles with addiction, and “Laurel Canyon,” which laments the end of a serious long-term relationship with someone who “used to talk of having kids over breakfast on a Sunday.” 

Smith’s lush vocals are well-suited to serenading listeners through their sorrow, whether that means dancing their blues away or just having a good cry. It may not be safe to go to nightclubs at the moment, but listeners can still crank up “Love Goes” and throw a pity party in their living rooms. 

“Love Goes” is available for streaming on platforms including Spotify and Apple Music.

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