Sam Smith’s voice is lighter than air, with a falsetto as creamy as meringue and just as prone to folding into sharp but soft peaks. It almost disguises how much of a creep he comes across as all over “In the Lonely Hour.” Smith makes ill-advised romantic gestures: overinvesting himself in a one-night stand (“Stay With Me”); pleading for a relationship to be ruined for his own benefit (“Leave Your Lover”); putting words into his intended’s mouth, then holding her accountable for them (“Not in That Way”). It’s even possible to read into “Lay Me Down” that he’s prepared to commit suicide if he can’t spend the night with the girl. The music does its best to couch Smith’s melodramatic overreach in swoonily supple adult pop, but only on “Like I Can” — a grand, reach-for-the-sky imprecation focused more on his rival’s shortcomings than on what he himself brings to the table — does it have enough conviction to counter what he is singing. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL “Like I Can”
Sam Smith plays the House of Blues on Sept. 15.Marc Hirsh can be reached at email@example.com.