The album’s emotional depth and vocal sophistication should satisfy those mesmerized by Smith’s spine-tingling SNL debut, which exposed his talents to a wider audience. As Rolling Stone previously noted in a quick primer, the LP’s ruminative, heartbroken vibe might shock fans who first heard Smith on Disclosure’s upbeat 2012 dance track “Latch.”
Tracks like the gospel-tinged “Stay With Me” and the hypnotic power-ballad “Like I Can” match the emotive subject matter with tear-jerking sonic backdrops – but the album is far from a mope-fest, as evidenced by the uptempo opening track “Money on My Mind,” built on driving rhythms and a sultry falsetto.
As the title suggests, In the Lonely Hour focuses lyrically on unrequited love. Back in May, Smith told Fader the album “is about a guy that I fell in love with last year, and he didn’t love me back.”
“It’s about a guy and that’s what I wanted people to know – I want to be clear that that’s what it’s about,” he told the publication. Later, he continued, “I want to make it a normality because this is a non-issue. People wouldn’t ask a straight person these questions. I’ve tried to be clever with this album, because it’s also important to me that my music reaches everybody. I’ve made my music so that it could be about anything and everybody – whether it’s a guy, a female or a goat – and everybody can relate to that.”