Sam Smith, ‘In the Lonely Hour’


Aidin Vaziri | Sam Smith already wowed American audiences weeks ago with a tender, confident performance on “Saturday Night Live” that evoked vivid memories of a young Boy George. Back in his native Britain, the cherubic 21-year-old soul singer won both the Brit 2014 critics’ choice award and the BBC’s Sound of 2014 poll. Talk about heightened expectations: His debut album, “In the Lonely Hour,” arrives just this week. How can it not disappoint? Yet while its preponderance of mid-tempo ballads makes it lag in places, there are some moments of real inspiration here, particularly in the gospel-tinged “Stay With Me” and the dizzying “Money on My Mind,” in which Smith melds his sweet falsetto with precision beats and lyrics that preemptively defuse the hype: “I’m not a puppet / I will work against your strings.”