Collaborations with the likes of Drake and Stormzy, together with a feature on the Black Panther soundtrack, sound like the perfect ingredients to dizzying heights of number ones and numerous awards. For R&B/Soul singer Jorja Smith, she has achieved all the above by the age of 21 and at the start of her career, making her a musician whose career is on the cusp of mainstream success.
Raised in the midlands, Jorja Smith travelled between her hometown and London to work on song writing whilst still in education before moving to the capital permanently at aged 18. In these young formative years, Smith worked alongside reputable names in R&B such as FKA Twigs and Maverick Sabre. It is in this long-rooted dedication that she found the opportunity to establish her name.
Fast-forward a few years to last year, and the debut album Lost and Found is released to many positive reviews and praise – including three BRIT awards including British Breakthrough and the prestigious Mastercard British Album of the Year. Lost and Found deals with topics of isolation, discovery and general teenage-hood, accompanied with soft vocals and a mix of upbeat rhythm with meandering flow. The contrast of pace is evident, feeding into the confusion of growing up and even highlighting Smith’s album title choice, whilst lyrical themes remain tightly packaged.
In her first single ‘Blue Lights’, Jorja Smith discusses the relationship between the police and people of colour, and the feeling of guilt and fear forced upon people of colour, regardless of their innocence. Smith sings in the second verse: “Gun crime into your right ear / Drugs and violence into your left / Default white headphones flooding the auditory, subconscious waves you accept.” These lyrics reflect on how there is always a default opinion that works against black people, interpreting black lives as ridden by crime, which the white media believe involves them; they are all treated as suspects. Smith closes such a direly realistic observation with the safest resolution: to accept, or risk accusation. Smith’s inspiration for this lyricism was rooted in her school environment, where she discussed grime music versus police with students for her media coursework.
Whilst ‘Blue Lights’ signifies the part of Smith’s title Lost, her moment of Found can be seen on her track ‘February 3rd’. It is a delicately electronic-infused song which slows the album in a moment of timelessness. Jorja Smith questions a relationship in emotional turmoil, as the lyrics sing “You wouldn’t notice if your eyes ain’t falling for me / Did you open up my heart, just to take it from me?” Smith is asking questions not just to her love interest, but to herself also, as she begins to uncover the truth behind a romance that has stagnated. As the song closes, she slips into a conversational tone which shifts the address wholly to herself and reflects as follows: “I’ve been lost, I’ve been lost again and I’ve found / Then I found myself but I’m constantly finding myself.” Through the highs and lows of love, Jorja Smith has found who she is – and this found is a journey.
With just one album, Jorja Smith has taken elements of several years of development from aspirational school kid to anticipating newcomer whilst her featured work showcases the demand from artists to involve Smith in their artistry. Her words are honest and homegrown, highlighting a woman artist whose lyrics come from first-hand experience. It is the balance between humble beginnings and links to big projects that display how Jorja Smith is on her way to cementing her musical legacy.
Lost and Found is available now via FAMM.