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updated: 6/17/2014 10:39 AM

Sam Smith an emotional powerhouse on debut

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  • Sam Smith delivers on soulful pop debut, "In the Lonely Hour."

      Sam Smith delivers on soulful pop debut, "In the Lonely Hour."
    ASSOCIATED PRESS/CAPITOL MUSIC GROUP

 
By Mesfin Fekadu, Associated Press

Sam Smith, "In the Lonely Hour" (Capitol)

"Why am I so emotional?" newcomer Sam Smith sings on his Top 10 hit, "Stay With Me."

"No, it's not a good look, need some self-control." It may not be a good look, but as far as the sound? Amazing.

The 22-year-old English singer's soulful pop debut, "In the Lonely Hour," is a passionate, heart-wrenching album that explores the emotions behind falling in love with someone who doesn't feel the same. It's a brave and honest album that captures the mood perfectly, especially on the bold "Leave Your Lover" and the guitar-tinged "Not in That Way," where he closes with the heartbreaking line: "You'd say, 'I'm sorry, believe me, I love you, but not in that way.'"

The 10-track set is full of more lyrics like that -- words that reel you into Smith's story of loneliness and love lapses, making for beautiful music. "I'm Not the Only One" is addictive, the sounds of strings stun on "Good Thing" and the falsetto heavy "Life Support" feels like falsetto heaven.

"Lonely Hour" is not all depressing: Album opener "Money on My Mind" is full of upbeat swag, while the dance-soul bonus track, "Restart," feels classic. There are also the hits Smith co-stars on that are helping him shine brighter: Disclosure's "Latch" and Naughty Boy's "La La La," which showcase the breakthrough singer's versatility.

Smith's powerhouse voice -- full of impressive high notes -- also helps lift the album's sad tone, bringing on a fiery, spirited vibe much like Adele on her masterful "21" album. And Smith even borrows from some of her top collaborators: Eg White, who co-wrote and produced Adele's "Chasing Pavements," is behind "Good Thing," while "Set Fire to the Rain" co-writer and producer Fraser T. Smith helps on "Not in That Way."

With this release, Smith won't feel alone for much longer.

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