Despite Sam Smith's ever-growing profile, the public has (mostly) known them as a powerhouse melancholic belter. From "Latch" to The Thrill Of It All and everything in between, Smith's work reliably reduces us to tears. Love Goes, Smith's third album, which they described to Zane Lowe as their "first proper heartbreak album", won't stop the waterworks.
Akin to Adele alongside them, Sam Smith's music consistently reaches into the deepest abysses of their psyche, pulls out raw emotion and spins it into ballads of love that's yet to be lost, and love that's already gone. Until 2020, the love Sam Smith sings of is always on the cusp of departure – or was never really there to begin with – but on Love Goes, their love has already left.
Immediately, Love Goes leaves the listener floored with the A Capella, auto-tuned "Young". In a clear stylistic homage to the work of Imogen Heap, Smith sets the listener up for the overarching theme of the album: freedom. Freedom in love, freedom in heartbreak, and freedom in discovering that you'll be fine without your someone, if only for a little while. The pulsating "Another One" sees Smith singing to an ex-lover who has moved on with someone else. There's sadness there, of course, but also a calming acceptance – "I think I can finally face that I'm not the one, never was the one."
"Forgive Myself" is standard Sam Smith fodder as far as ballads go, but there's therapy in the lyrics within. Their lover has left, and now they're by themselves on the floor. Smith lets themself feel all they need to feel, before accepting that self-love is going to have to come before they find love anywhere else. That same acceptance flows on through the album's climactic title track, which remains delicate until the stunning horn section is unleashed in the final minute.
In Love Goes, heartbreak sounds a whole lot peppier than usual. "Diamonds" has Smith scorned but strong, ready for their rebirth, over a thumping club-ready beat. On "My Oasis", they embrace a sensual, slow-burning beat as they long for the lover they thought they didn't need anymore, with a masterful feature from Burna Boy rounding it out.
Smith goes full laser-lit deep-house on "Dance ('Til You Love Someone Else)", which echoes the same sentiment of Love Goes bonus track and near-perfect pop single "Dancing With A Stranger", alongside Normani, pushed last year. This contrasts massively with the album's closing single, "Kids Again", which is a nostalgic summery haze complete with country-inspired twangs. It's Smith living in their whirlwind of emotion, longing for what they once had but knowing that there's another sunrise to come.
However, the album's flow is disjointed by the seemingly random assortment of tracks, to me it's almost as if they're out of order. The jump between heartbroken and confident, self-loving and self-loathing, might be how it happens in our brains, but through our ears it feels a little confusing. They're forlorn and solemn on piano-led ballad "For The Lover That I Lost", then turn hurt and angry on the quietly simmering "Breaking Hearts" – songs that might have worked better on the album if reversed.
Sam Smith might still be singing sad songs, but they've never sounded happier or more at peace with their craft. In an interview with Zach Sang, Smith told him "[I can] kinda do what I've always dreamed of doing but I was always scared to do, which is pop music".
Sam Smith is living their dream and is scared no more. Even with a few setbacks and heartbreaks throughout Love Goes, Sam Smith, in the way they've always wanted to be seen, has arrived.