The First-Person Meaning Behind “Too Good at Goodbyes” by Sam Smith

After falling in love with someone who didn’t feel the same, Sam Smith wrote their debut album In the Lonely Hour.

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They documented despairing heartache in the colossal hits “Stay with Me” and “I’m Not the Only One.” Though they rose to international stardom, Smith’s relationship struggles persisted.

“Too Good at Goodbyes” results from the pop star’s prolific and enduring romantic sadness.

“Getting Good at Getting Dumped”

Smith knows heartbreak and guards against the pain of a failed relationship. Smith explained to BBC’s Radio 1 that “Too Good at Goodbyes” is his ode to “getting good at getting dumped.”

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
So I’m never gonna get too close to you
Even when I mean the most to you
In case you go and leave me in the dirt

They told BBC’s Newsbeat, “It’s one guy from last year.” However, they clarified, “To be honest, this song isn’t about anyone else; this is about me and how I deal with heartbreak.”

But every time you hurt me, the less that I cry
And every time you leave me, the quicker these tears dry
And every time you walk out, the less I love you
Baby, we don’t stand a chance. It’s sad, but it’s true

In 2016, Smith was “dumped about three times.” By the third time, they knew how to walk away and move forward methodically. Smith had intellectualized the breakup and moved through the process in steps like ticking boxes.  

But every time you hurt me, the less that I cry
And every time you leave me, the quicker these tears dry

The Writers (and James Bond)

Smith collaborated with English songwriter and producer Jimmy Napes, who had worked on In the Lonely Hour, including “Stay with Me.”

Napes and Smith won a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Writing’s on the Wall,” written for the 2015 James Bond film Spectre. After Adele’s “Skyfall,” it was the second consecutive Bond theme to win a Golden Globe and an Academy Award.  

The Norwegian production team Stargate—Tor E. Hermansen and Mikkel S. Eriksen—co-wrote the song with Smith and Napes. Stargate also collaborated on Rihanna’s “Diamonds” and Katy Perry’s “Firework.”

Disclosure and In the Lonely Hour

The English electronic duo Disclosure released “Latch” in 2012, featuring a then-unknown Sam Smith. It became a sleeper hit in America, reaching No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

In 2014, after a series of successful singles and an EP, Capital UK released In the Lonely Hour. It reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and became the second biggest-selling album of 2014, behind Taylor Swift’s 1989.

Only Ed Sheeran’s x outsold Smith’s debut in the UK.

Smith won Grammy Awards for Best New Artist and Best Pop Vocal Album. In the Lonely Hour was also nominated for Album of the Year. (Beck’s Morning Phase won Album of the Year).

The Thrill of It All

Expectations were high for Smith’s second album after selling 12 million copies of In the Lonely Hour. They announced the album’s title on Twitter—now known as X.

Apple Music released a short documentary called On the Record: Sam Smith – The Thrill of It All. In the film, Smith revealed their thinking for the album: “I went through, like, this vortex, came out, I feel like I’ve rebuilt myself as a stronger thing, and I’m just gonna go into the vortex again.

“I wasn’t trying to make a big pop record when I made this album,” they added. “I was actually just trying to make something personal and like a diary.”

Once again, Smith dominated the charts with a second consecutive No. 1 album in the UK. The Thrill of It All debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, surpassing its predecessor’s No. 2 peak.

“Too Good at Goodbyes” topped the UK Singles chart and reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100.

An Old Soul Singer

Sam Smith is an old-fashioned crooner who writes songs everyone can relate to. The need for connection endures because the reality of heartbreak is ubiquitous.

With personal details and embarrassment revealed in global pop hits like a journal leaked on the internet, Smith’s songs are portraits of cinematic love and the despair that seems to follow them.

The world can’t seem to get enough of these songs, but you wonder how much Smith’s heart can take.

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Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

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