Consumer Guide Album
Sam Smith: In the Lonely Hour [Capitol, 2014]
Only when I finally bought the CD did I realize how well this pleasant pop I'd been MP3ing through my skull cohered as a self-portrait. This Sam Smith fella is a needy man, insecure about love as all of us are and more candid about it than most. And though manly types may scoff at his pleasing to infernally hooky tunes, not one song approaches self-pity. Both vocally and verbally, they offer the kind of emotional complexity about sexual romance's ins and outs that good pop captures better than good literature, where cynicism is such a folkway. But having established that baseline, let me single out my favorite, the lead "Money on My Mind," an emotionally complex reflection on his record deal. And let me add that the four OK-to-excellent extras on the deluxe edition dilute the original album's effect.