Sam Smith’s latest late-night raid on Heartbreak Mountain opens in the very wee small hours with “Young,” an a cappella ode to loving, crying, drinking, and kissing boys, consequences be damned. The forlorn, unadorned sweep of Smith’s singing evokes torch-song crooning at its most elemental, yet their voice is subtly smoothed out in an Auto-Tune glaze. (Smith uses the pronouns they/their.) It’s a classic sentiment, but the lyrics feel ripped from the singer’s own experience, so the moment reaches across a gulf of many decades, feeling at once ancient and modern — a simple, spare performance that contains much more than it seems to originally offer.
Love Goes is all about giving too much in a world that never has the heart to give back in return. Smith wanted to call it To Die For, but changed the title because it seemed insensitive during the pandemic. It’s a battlefield of lost loves, broken hearts, affairs that end badly, memories that linger, wounds that never heal. “I don’t know why I get so serious,” they sing, almost having fun with their own wallowing persona.
Smith dances through the sads with a diverse set of songs created with A-listers like Max Martin, Shellback, Amy Allen, and Ryan Tedder. “So Serious” is one of the most charming, with a melody that’s a bit like Shaggy’s Y2K-era reggae-pop hit “It Wasn’t Me” and Smith breathily gliding through rivers of tears and a sensitive synth as they recall a lost summer in the city with a long-gone lover. They fly into disco-diva heights over the house music of “Dance (Til You Love Someone Else),” and deliver a lovely, somber gospel-tinged soul on “Breaking Hearts.” Burna Boy guests on the darkly lovely “My Oasis,” his earthy vocals offering a stark counterpoint to Smith’s falsetto flights.
As always, Smith’s voice is lustrous and versatile, swooping into the husky depths of the LP’s darker, reflective passages and skylarking over the more upbeat moments, displaying a rich, androgynous athleticism. Love Goes doesn’t quite have overwhelming moments to match the titanic power of signature hits like “Latch,” Smith’s career-making hit with house duo Disclosure, or 2017’s “Him.” In some ways, that’s OK. There’s a gracious ease to even the most sweeping song, like the way “Diamonds” begins as heavy breakup grieving and turns into a dance floor glide, or how the forget-me-not “Kids Again” salves an anthem of lost innocence with soft country-rock. It makes for a record full of healing sounds to pull you past sorrow.