The road to Sam Smith’s third album has been a long one. The album campaign kicked off early last year with the sublime Normani collaboration, “Dancing with a Stranger,” which was soon followed up by the excellent “How Do You Sleep?” Shortly after that, Sam released the lush “To Die For,” a song that served as the upcoming album’s title track until the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to push back and retitle the album. Now, the latest installment in the album’s campaign is an inspirational midtempo duet with Demi Lovato.
Complete with drums, keyboard, trumpet, piano, chello, bass, and more, “I’m Ready” spends the majority of its runtime building up its momentum. There’s an urgency about the instrumental that offers a sharp contrast to Sam’s smooth and languid vocal performance. Both Sam and Demi deliver unsurprisingly strong vocal performances as they sing about how they are ready “for someone to love” them. It is interesting to note that “I’m Ready” isn’t necessarily a self-empowerment song, although the track’s arrangement lends itself to that tradition. Instead, the song is about being ready for a lover who will complement, uplift, protect, and accept them and all of their flaws. It’s a love song that doesn’t cast the vocalist as helpless or in distress, so “I’m Ready” is a commendable take on the musical trope. Nevertheless, the pre-chorus is unbearably corny: “It’s so hard when you’re with someone/Your heart breaks and it ain’t no fun.” Thankfully, the two main verses, which are intricate inverses of the other, help balance everything out.
The only other roadblock that “I’m Ready” stumbles over is the aforementioned momentum. The instrumental chugs along in a way that builds into what should be either multiple explosive choruses or one final bombastic climax of a bridge-final chorus combo. Unfortunately, that moment of catharsis is never reached; “I’m Ready” simply builds to a climax that never comes. What makes matters more confusing, is that the artists slapped a choir on the final chorus of the song, but they add nothing to the atmosphere of the track. If Sam and Demi stacked their own background vocals instead of a choir (like Ariana Grande‘s “God is a woman“), the emotional peak of the song would have been more clearly defined. Overall, this isn’t the best preview of Sam’s upcoming record.