Sam Smith – ‘Love Goes’ review: pop balladeer leans even further into heartbreak than before

Although there are dalliances here with buoyant, radio-friendly material, album three sees the star largely stick to their tried-and-tested break-up songs

Sam Smith is no stranger to crafting a soundtrack about the highest highs and lowest lows of love. After all, the singer was the one to give us 2014’s ‘Stay With Me’, a pitch-perfect wedding song schmaltzer, and ‘Too Good at Goodbyes’, a pile-up of frustration about being perpetually dumped. With their third album ‘Love Goes’, Smith leans further into the lowest lows of love: losing it.

The journey to ‘Love Goes’ hasn’t exactly been a smooth ride. Like many artists this year, Smith had a change of plans. Originally titled ‘To Die’ For – also the name of their lovelorn single released in February – the record was set for release back in May. “I am sorry it’s taken a while,” Smith said in a September statement explaining the delay. “But these unprecedented times gave me the room and space to fall in love with these songs all over again… After it all, I still believe love is the answer. And with love in our hearts and kindness in our words and actions, we sing on.”

The time and space gave the singer-songwriter the opportunity to rework their songs and add collaborations. such as the moody ‘My Oasis’ with Burna Boy, and reintroduce the revamped version with ‘Diamonds’, a cathartic, groovy pop track about finding strength from the rejection of a failed relationship.

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The pairing of the new single and album title made sense, considering Smith had, said in an interview on YouTube’s Zach Sang Show, that their latest record would feature “fewer ballads and plenty of poppier tracks.” And ‘Love Goes’ does possess a handful of pop- and radio-friendly tracks, but at its core its Smith’s knack for sap and soul – and their singular, chilling vocals – that forms the base of the record. When it comes to songwriting, Smith oscillates towards what they know.

‘Another One’ takes cues from ‘Diamonds’, though this time the narrator feels burned by an ex-lover who was disingenuous about their intentions: “Oh, congratulations / You found the one / You found the one / I think I can finally face it / I’m not the one / Never was the one”. On the title track, a piano ballad that morphs tentatively into full-on pop, Smith leans into self-pity while trying to change their partner: “I tried to change you, tried to make you into someone else / I guess the only one I’m fooling is my stupid self”. With sadbanger ‘Dance’, Smith struggles to move on, ruminating over love lost despite trying hard to forget: “I remember every taste / If I get a little wasted / I can almost see your face / Such a dark and lonely place // I’m not over it / Someone get me over it.”

Despite leaning into the melancholy of their break-up, Smith proves on ‘Young’ that they haven’t given up on love or themselves: “I want to be wild and young / And not be afraid to lose/ Cry on my own / Me and my bottle / These are the things I choose.” Smith slowly but surely is making their way toward healing, but they aren’t done lamenting what could have been just yet.

Details

Release date: October 30

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Record label: Capitol Records

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