We still remember the theme song for Spectre by exceptional and soulful English singer Sam Smith. “Writing On The Wall” was one of the most dramatic of Bond themes and revealed the singer to be a global star. His latest album, Love Goes, is a product of 2020 and the year of COVID-19. Here we explore what there is to love most about the music on Love Goes.
The Impact of COVID
Sam Smith’s third album explores the mix of despair and euphoria that marked a year of much difference. The release date was set back six months, due to the lockdown, and in the process was renamed from To Die For to Love Goes. In a year when death rates were heavy in people’s minds, changing the title from To Die For makes sense. Sam Smith didn’t want to stamp his album with that much despair.
The idea of Love Goes could equally be a tribute to the sense of loss in 2020. The crying selfie that Sam Smith posted in the midst of the pandemic was a sign of his mental state and a sign that the music he was creating was likely to be focused ever more inward and with a heavy sense of gloom.
Whether his fans can cope with such despair and little glitz at this time is to be seen. Piers Morgan for one felt that the self-absorption of the selfie would prompt a backlash from fans – but most saw it as an honest portrayal of the struggle that most people were feeling.
The Tweaks and Turns of Music
The album Love Goes is therefore a tweaked version of the music that would have been released six months ago. Smith has explained that he is being more experimental with this music and thanked his collaborators who rose to the challenge of his creativity and freedom of expression.
Despite this bold statement of his intent, Sam Smith is also asking his fans to listen with an open heart. He is aware that the music fan will need to demonstrate empathy and compassion when listening to the music. It also suggests that they are not going to get a standard Sam Smith selection either.
However, before people feel Sam Smith has gone completely off the Sam Smith rails, it is worth looking at who he is collaborating with. Steve Mac is better known for working with Westlife. This suggests that there is likely to be little extravagance in the music and will act more as a haven, a place of safety, for the shaken musician.
Sam Smith’s desire to be in a place that feels secure might disappoint some, but it is authentic to his sense of self right now. This authenticity generally leads to music filled with sincerity and honesty.
Bold And New Or Just The Same
The music on Love Goes does sound different to what has come before. While it cannot be called experimental in any shape or form, it is a departure for Smith – as he reaches back in time for some of the retro soul vibes.
While you may have heard it all before, with much of it, melodic tunes of a singer-songwriter, there are some surprises. There are some guitar solos that stir your buds and the title track is something of an anthem. The backing vocalists chanting “hey” give it a sense of melodrama alongside the soaring strings.
There are some off-notes on the album. The song “Dance” with its strong beat suggests it should be something euphoric, but is marred by the use of the minor key and some despairing lyrics. The song feels like the singer is sulking and doesn’t quite rise to the challenge of injecting us with the energy needed to make this song.
But Listen To The Words
Why we love Love Goes so much is the outpouring of a sad heart into the lyrics. Sam Smith unashamedly explores the mental challenges of living in today’s world. While some might call this glum or even cliched and misery-is-good-for-business, others might suggest that this helps others who struggle to find a voice too.
The themes in the album are universal because they are personal. Sam Smith makes himself vulnerable in his music and this makes some uncomfortable. For others, it helps us feel human. There is a lot to admire about this quality in music.
We love the album Love Goes not because it tries to do anything new or different, but because it is in pursuit of honesty. COVID-19, the lockdown, the sense of loss are all on show here – and it would have been disingenuous of Sam Smith to offer anything other than soulful.
Music is a creative act and an extension of the person, it is not a purely commercial pursuit. Therefore, let’s celebrate the authenticity of this music and a man who is unashamed of being himself.