Comments on costume and the devil did enough to detract from Sam Smith’s latest album. What could have been considered a whip-round of controversy was a strong smokescreen to hide Gloria away from listeners. Rightly so. When there is nothing there to back up that so-called controversy, the smart media moves that draw the eye to a simple-yet-engaging cover, as is the case with Gloria, then turns a dull project into a barbaric one. Empty, riddled with cliché and lacking a diverse selection of tracks, Gloria should be no surprise, especially not to the inevitable top of the charts. Gloria is a basic collection of aggressively dull dance-pop assertions. Love Me More is thankfully not a glorification that demands attention, but a tepid experiment with applying emotional experience to a track.
Not quite as impressive as it could be considering Smith approaches the application of emotion to song as though it were a new concept, but the stifled R&B beat makes it hard to love Love Me More at all. Flatlining, superficial energies push No God through a cowardly and expressionless piece on bringing someone down to earth and away from their ego. Smith, for all his water cooler moments that the public hope to discuss and chew over, has absolutely nothing to show musically. No God? No interest. Hurting Interlude is nothing of the sort, it is a split off from No God, and an unnecessary break-up of the two. Repetitive bars and simple lyrical hooks mark Perfect as anything but. Jessie Reyez adds nothing to the boring traipse through the nightlife Smith puts to song.
Vacuous guitar solos and string section powers are thoroughly wasted, but their presence here is inclusion for the sake of it rather than any articulate, artistic point. Unholy is, as every Smith song showcases, an empty vessel to be sponsored by or supported through some third party. Unconvincing tracks are, in turn, embarrassing occasions that tend to find themselves sponsored by Durex or a flame for inconsistent members of the public to find outrage in. The only outrage here is how horrendous and reference-filled Unholy, the Kim Petras-featuring song, is. Wet and messy acoustics drive the interchangeable How To Cry. Complete with basic and acceptable playing, the real insult is how insincere it all feels, and how Smith just mounts themselves to the nearest topical moment. Gimme is just Måneskin’s Bla Bla Bla. As annoying, anyway.
Even if these are the innermost feelings of a singer, then they are feelings that have shown up with collective heart and actual spirit elsewhere from artists who either hold a legacy of their own or do not have a chance at hitting the commercial success Smith has been granted. Bland, repetitive and ultimately insincere even if the intention is to draw from experience. Gloria is a crucial listen. It highlights everything wrong with the charts and how tepid beats and marginally shifting are enough to win over a main audience on name alone. Consistent only in its problems, Gloria is full of dull faults and ineffective pop-safe beats. Relatability of an artist should factor in the person as well as the message, but Smith here is completely disconnected from what they hope to present. Two interludes on an album barely half an hour long. Fascinating.