Among the new international releases this year, two albums stood out not just with their established names but their soul and musicality that gets better as they release their respective records.
Sam Smith returns with a new album that packs a dramatic and soulful punch while Kelly Clarkson comes out of her pop-rock genre to try an Aretha Franklin-esque kind of music but with a contemporary production that is still radio-friendly as she moves to Atlantic following her exit from her old label (RCA).
‘The Thrill of It All (Special Edition)’
It has been over three years since British singer Sam Smith’s debut album “In The Lonely Hour” was released. Since then he has become one of the world’s biggest acts with over 12 million global album sales and awards, including an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, three Brit Awards and four Grammy’s, among others. The album has produced the popular hugot hits “Stay With Me,” “Leave Your Lover,” “I’m Not The Only One” and “Lay Me Down” among others.
He has just released his highly anticipated sophomore album, “The Thrill of It All’ via Capitol Records.
“Too Good At Goodbyes,” the first single off the new album, came out in September. It saw global success hitting #1 in the UK and Global Spotify Charts, #1 in the UK and US iTunes Charts and entering the official UK Charts at #1 making it Sam’s sixth UK number one single.
Ahead of release, Smith has also shared tracks “Pray” which he performed on the US show “Saturday Night Live,” and the most personal song he has ever written, ‘Burning.”
The latest single off the new album is “One Last Song,” a track he wrote as a final wave goodbye to the person that inspired his breakout debut record “In the Lonely Hour.”
The Thrill Of It All sees Smith once again working alongside close friend and long-term collaborator Jimmy Napes as well as the likes of Timbaland, Malay, Jason “Poo Bear” Boyd and Stargate. He also collaborated with unsigned artist, YEBBA for their breathtaking track “No Peace.”
The Standard Edition features 10 tracks while the Special Edition of the album includes four more songs: “Nothing Left For You,” “Scars,” “One Day At A Time” and the title track.
Why download/stream or buy this album? Like the previous album, it is filled with #hugot lyrics and songs you can listen to when you are on “emo” mode or just want to listen to great music.
Likewise, The Thrill Of It All has a lot of single-worthy tracks same as his debut album as if the same formula was used, which still worked for a singer like Smith. No track was recorded just to be a filler.
In this record, he has the same old soul, with heartbreak-themed, poignant, emotional songs and even better and impressive vocals. His fantastic voice evokes a feeling that every man, woman, gay or lesbian can comprehend.
Tracks like “HIM” displays the character of the album as if it is a diary and confessional about his old flame. Music Geek smells another Grammy for this one.
‘Meaning Of Life’
After releasing seven albums under RCA with 17 single releases now boasting multi-platinum, platinum, and gold certifications around the world, including such global favorites as “Miss Independent,” “Because Of You,” “Mr. Know It All,” “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You),” “Heartbeat Song,” and “My Life Would Suck Without You,” the first “American Idol” Kelly Clarkson has found a new home in Atlantic Records.
The last mentioned track holds the Billboard “Hot 100” record for the biggest chart leap in a single week, from #97 all the way to #1 and her infamous tiff with music honcho Clive Davis became a favorite subject in music pages.
Now, her hugely anticipated album, “Meaning Of Life,” under Atlantic is finally out. Already, it is among 2017’s most highly regarded new albums, drawing widespread acclaim for singles and track releases including “Love So Soft,” “Move You” and the album’s title track.
It is a collection of smart and sensual soul-inspired pop that immediately belongs among the legendary label Atlantic’s classic canon.
For her eighth studio album – and follow-up to 2015’s chart-topping “Piece by Piece” – the multiple Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter united a stellar team of top songwriters and producers to collaborate on her new label debut. Among them were past collaborators Jason Halbert, Jesse Shatkin and Grammy Award-winning “Producer of the Year” Greg Kurstin as well as first time associates Mick Schultz, The Monarch, and Nick Ruth, among others.
As if that weren’t enough, Clarkson is joined by members of the legendary Earth Wind & Fire in one of the album favorites “Whole Lotta Woman.”
Other Standouts: “Didn’t I,” “Would You Call That Love,” “I Don’t Think About You,” “Go High,” “Don’t You Pretend.”
Why download/stream or buy this album? Kelly Clarkson amazes with this new label debut as she ventures into soul and R&B rather than the usual pop-rock chick she was used to be packaged by her old label.
Considering the type of songs she performed on AI like Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” and “(You Made Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” as well as her type of voice, Clarkson should have don this in her old label.
Speaking of Aretha, you can hear her being channeled on the songs. It is a display of power, bigness, vocal acrobatics and strength only Clarkson can do.
The tracks tackle different topics like getting time for oneself in the intro song “A Minute,” intimacy and commitment in the carrier single “Love So Soft,” a happy marriage in “Meaning of Life,” shattering bullies, body-shamers and having self-confidence in Whole Lotta Woman (“I am a strong bad-ass chick with classic confidence”) and “Go High.”
But generally, the theme is about “girl power” and her straightforward message to haters which she was known from her past albums though more mature and grown-up.
Even if the style has changed, the Clarkson we loved from her Idol years remain. While she describes her years at RCA Records as “an arranged and unhappy marriage,” with this album under Atlantic, it is like rediscovering her voice again and based from the output, it shows that she seems to be happy with her new partner.