Returning after a hiatus of two years since his last single and three since his last album, Sam Smith tugs on everyone’s heartstrings once again with the emotional ballad, “Too Good at Goodbyes,” the leading single off his sophomore album.
In an interview with Zane Lowe of “Beats 1” on Sept. 8, the release date of the song, Smith cites this song as one of four on the album that have to do with his personal life, saying “[The song is] about a relationship I was in and it’s basically about getting good at getting dumped… People are going to see this one as I’ve said it about me and something that I’ve gone through.”
Written and composed in collaboration with Jimmy Napes from “Writing’s on the Wall,” “Too Good at Goodbyes” starts off with a light piano accompaniment that leaves more than enough room for Smith’s melodious tenor to echo through. Smith sings, “I’m never gonna let you close to me/Even though you mean the most to me/‘Cause every time I open up, it hurts,” a verse that is sure to ring true for many. The beat picks up during this part, with occasional finger-snapping and more frequent piano chords in the background.
Continuing into the pre-chorus, Smith details how every time his significant other hurts him, leaves him or walks out, he gets all the more apathetic about the situation, ending with the line, “Baby, we don’t stand a chance, it’s sad but it’s true.” He then gets into the hook of the song, when he sings the title, “I’m way too good at goodbyes,” a number of times. During this part, he’s echoed by a gospel-like choir.
The song describes how emotionally detached he’s become in relationships, a theme that will come up in other songs on his album.
In the same interview with Zane Lowe of “Beats 1”, Smith said, “What I’ve been through relationship-wise the last year has made me a lot stronger and I feel like I’ve learned some lessons from it.”
The structure of the song is reminiscent of many of his earlier hits, such as “Stay with Me” and “Lay Me Down.” While the beginning and ending are signified by sparse piano chords, the beats and production elements prevalent during the chorus and in the middle of the song drop out just as easily as they came in, until Smith sings the last titular line acapella, leaving a heartbreaking aftertaste.
Listeners may note the lack of a bridge that may be the distinct factor setting this song apart from other pop classics, but Smith’s flawless vocalization and falsetto patch the hole up more than well enough. If this is any indication of the tone of his new album, fans can expect to experience an emotional rollercoaster, filled with woe and heartache. However, the joy of Smith’s return will surely outweigh the emotional turmoil one would go through while listening to his album.
Single: “Too Good at Goodbyes”
Artist: Sam Smith
Release: Sept. 8
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars