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Sam Smith: 'In the Lonely Hour' album review

Sam Smith's debut album, "In the Lonely Hour," dropped on June 17.

Story highlights

  • "In the Lonely Hour" is Smith's debut album
  • He's performed with the duo Disclosure
  • He rolls deepest on "Stay With Me"

Where do lonely hearts go?

Rolling Stone: Who Is Sam Smith? A Quick Primer on the U.K. Soul Singer

British singer Sam Smith, 21, has written a dissertation on the question with his debut LP. Smith -- a gifted blue-eyed-soulster with Barry Gibb's flexible falsetto and Mark Ronson's ear for throwback grooves -- got noticed last year for his vocals on house duo Disclosure's slow jam "Latch."

Rolling Stone: Sam Smith comes out, says debut is dedicated to unrequited love

With In the Lonely Hour's orchestral flourishes and focus on a single unrealized affair, it seems the baby-faced singer is being positioned as a male Adele. But while the album flirts with a few radiant moments, Smith's endless yearning isn't wrapped in as many irresistible packages.

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He rolls deepest on the gospel-powered "Stay With Me" -- a spare track with a simple arrangement that matches its bare plea -- and "Like I Can," a blissful groove that packs a Seventies rock-radio punch. Elsewhere, though he reaches for his upper register with the same eagerness that he grasps for love, his emo hopelessness is a flood drowning everything in sight.

The album's team of producers gives Smith a mostly blank canvas to showcase his vocals, providing room for soaring riffs over fingerpicked guitars on "Not in That Way" and "Leave Your Lover." But neither leaves as indelible a mark as Smith's lost love has left on his heart.

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Read about Sam Smith as part of our CNN 10: Fresh Faces