XO was the album where Smith started broadening his musical palette from his lo-fi beginnings. Similarly, ‘Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands’ starts in a quiet, acoustic style before blowing up at its midpoint into a fully orchestrated coda.
Like everybody who writes about music for fun or profit, I was thrown for a loop by Beyoncé’s surprise self-titled Dec. 13 release. All those year-end wrap-ups were suddenly and hopelessly out-of-date.
This release was the biggest popular music story of the year, both for what it means for the industry and because of its perfect, top secret execution by one of the most scrutinized women in the world.
I came across an interview with Smith in which he explains the lyrics and reveals that even this seemingly upbeat track was colored by the depression that ultimately led to his suicide.
It was on this album that he began to stretch his musical ambitions, introducing horns, strings and fuller instrumentation to his typical acoustic guitar arrangements.
Opening track ‘Sweet Adeline’ showcased his new direction, starting off the way all of his songs had up to that point — with a delicate acoustic guitar track and his whispered vocals — before exploding at the halfway point into a glorious cacophony.