This week’s Song of the Week comes courtesy of British heartbreak crooner Sam Smith.
While Sam Smith’s latest single retains his gospel-like harmonies and church choir pipes, don’t break out the hymn books and candles just yet — ‘Pray’ is more than just a religious beat.
The church choir vocals make it seem as though Smith is continuing with his usual style, especially with the overwhelming chorus. Around the two-minute mark, however, the theatrics are waved aside to reveal a raw and intimate piece.
Smith further surprises by adding R&B elements and exhibiting his vocal chops over the melodramatic and yearning lyrics. His immaculate control over the wavering flow on the word ‘pray’ draws our attention to, and forces us to feel the vulnerability of the number. Producer Timbaland also lends a hand in curating that old-school R&B beat, which not only demands your aural attention but also offers Smith’s baritone more ground to bounce off.
Some of Smith’s strengths have always been his abilities to emotionally engage his listeners and seamlessly change from style to style. I was afraid his new album would prove him to be a one-trick pony with his soulful runs, but if ‘Pray’ is any indication of how the other songs will turn out, The Thrill of It All is shaping up to be a keeper of an album.
While Smith has mentioned before that ‘Pray’ is a homage to the horrors going on in Mosul, the song speaks more about his own personal journey than the actual issues going on. However, the strong instrumentation and vocal prowess outweigh the narrative dissonance, so we’d maybe be willing to let it slide.
At least he’s no longer lamenting about being no good at a one night stand.