You’re more than likely familiar with Sam Smith. Stand in any store, or go to any restaurant for more than 20 minutes and I can almost guarantee that one of their songs will pop up on the playlist. Smith's songs infiltrate radio stations and consistently chart on the Billboard Hot 100 because of their catchy nature.
Smith released their new album “Gloria” on Jan. 27. They describe the work as a “coming of age” album, and mentioned that creating the album helped them through dark times. I was curious to see how much depth this album would have since I always considered Smith’s older songs catchy tunes with lyrics I don’t know.
“Gloria,” however, was a confusing rollercoaster.
There were moments I really connected with the songs and messages, but at times I felt more disoriented than anything.
The first track, “Love Me More,” was an uplifting, self-love anthem with a steady bass. Smith’s album has a theme of getting through breakups, and I appreciated how they used the first song to release a positive message.
“No God” has a repeating loop that Smith sings over and over. Although my hopes for this song were low in the beginning, Smith experiments with vocals that build up throughout, which was surprisingly enjoyable and unique.
I love a good interlude, which I’m happy to report Smith delivered with “Hurting Interlude.” They include excerpts from the broadcast of the first pride celebration in New York, which felt meaningful not only to Smith but to their album as a whole. It embeds itself nicely into the most energetic dance song, “Lose You.” It’s hard to listen to this song without at least nodding your head along.
I didn’t care much for “Perfect,” but I did think Jessie Reyez’s feature went nicely with the song. She’s featured on two other tracks in the album, another being “Gimme” alongside Smith and Koffee. Personally, I found her part on “Gimme” to be repetitive to the point it felt almost unbearable. Koffee, however, added Jamaican flair to the song which helped counter Reyez’s underwhelming contribution.
I planned to skip “Unholy” when I first started listening to this album. I enjoyed it when Smith dropped it as a single in 2022, but at this point in my life I’ve deemed it overplayed.
That being said, the transition from “Perfect” to “Unholy” was genuinely so good I listened to its entirety. I cannot put into words how much this transition enhances the song — I strongly recommend listening to it.
“How To Cry” was my favorite song on the album by far. It’s a vulnerable song about getting over an emotionally unavailable partner; Smith sings, “All of the feelings you didn’t show are the reasons to let go.” The song highlights their vocal range perfectly.
After this climax of a song, the next few go downhill. “Six Shots” and “Gimme” are risque party songs that encapsulate Smith’s feelings for needing someone, but both feel out of place right after their songs about acceptance. Smith attempts to highlight the ups and downs of the healing process, but the sharp turn in emotions feels inconclusive.
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“Dorothy’s Interlude” sounded like a collection of noise, and “I’m Not Here To Make Friends” was underwhelming considering the double feature of Jessie Reyez and Calvin Harris. Perhaps I was expecting something reminiscent of Harris’s songs like “Summer,” but all I had in my notes was, “WHERE IS CALVIN???”
“Gloria’s” title track starts with a faint screeching hawk noise which led me to worry that someone was being brutally murdered outside of my dorm room. Despite that, it was a lovely song that made me feel like I was in a church pew, and I liked how Smith tied the religious nature of the song to self-growth.
“Who We Love” redeems the second half of the album. The gentle lyrics remind us to trust ourselves in relationships. Smith sings that “It’s not wrong to want the world for someone / it’s not a feeling you can run from / because we love who we love,” and Ed Sheeran adds, “You don’t know better than your heart knows.”
This album is listenable, and it’s good to put on in the background. Smith approaches difficult emotions with catchy tunes and reassuring lyrics. It was a recurring theme that many of the songs in the album had an underwhelming start, but once the beat kicked in, Smith delivered a bop.