Musicality – Sam Smith, George Michael, Weezer, Kelly Clarkson

Sam Smith

“Burning” and “Pray” singles

(Universal)

At 25, Sam Smith is still young, but the soul in his amazing voice is like perfectly aged wine. He makes me want to cry. Apparently, he’s only been getting better since he amazed us in 2014 with the beautiful song “Stay With Me.” His overall style is still largely the same, so if you liked that track, you will probably love these two singles from his album The Thrill of it All, which comes out in November. I’m particularly fond of “Pray,” a wonderful composition on which he collaborated with Timbaland. It crescendos into one of the best choruses I’ve heard all year, giving me goosebumps. I can’t wait for the new album.

 

George Michael 

Listen With Prejudice Vol. 1/ MTV Unplugged

(G.K. Panayiotou/Sony)

George Michael’s death earlier this year was shocking and sad. He was an icon, and his voice was one of a kind. This is a two-CD combination of his Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 album, released in 1990, and his MTV Unplugged performance from 1996. Listening to these remastered songs is bittersweet, but it’s a celebration of his life in music. Songs like “Freedom! 90” have stood the test of time. I never saw the MTV Unplugged performance, so being able to listen to it now is particularly moving. It allows me to reflect on who he was and how much he affected pop music. The world won’t be forgetting George Michael anytime soon.

 

Weezer 

Pacific Daydream

(Atlantic/Crush)

This is a completely different Weezer than the one I’ve listened to for years. For that reason, some longtime fans may find it hard to give this album, which is the band’s 11th, a chance. Weezer has been known for alternative rock with some pop elements mixed in, but this album is almost entirely pop. It’s amazing from start to finish, but fans might have to get rid of some expectations to see that. When I first heard the single “Feels Like Summer,” it sounded like a Twenty One Pilots song because of the hip hop sound they incorporated. One of my favorite songs on this album, “Beach Boys,” is a love song to the band that led the way in establishing a West Coast style of pop music starting in the ’60s. Weezer has always had a sunny California sound of its own, and this album is a good place to find a happy start to the coming cold days. My favorite songs are “Happy Hour,” “Get Right,” and “Any Friend of Diane’s.”

 

Kelly Clarkson

Meaning of Life

(Atlantic)

Kelly Clarkson has been moving more toward soul and R&B lately. I can’t argue with the choice. Her powerhouse voice sounds great and fits well in those genres, especially in songs like “Meaning of Life.” Another highlight of this album is the bass, which doesn’t usually get a lot of acclaim. Whoever was in charge of that on this album deserves a raise. “Go High” is my favorite song on the album, and it might just be my all-time favorite Kelly Clarkson song. It was inspired by Michelle Obama’s speech from the 2016 Democratic National Convention, where she said, “When they go low, we go high.” But the song itself isn’t political. It’s about taking the high road even when it’s hard, and I’m going to have it on repeat for a while. Other good ones are “Love So Soft” and “Medicine.”