england by August Prum August 31, 2017
English artist Jorja Smith has about 10 songs to her name and yet she’s one of the most intriguing young artists in music right now.
Smith, who just turned 20 years old, first got the attention of a music manager covering songs on YouTube as a teenager.
But the music world at large noticed her when she dropped “Blue Lights,” a contemplative, Dizzee Rascal-sampling ballad that displayed such a clear depth of talent, hype began to swirl around the Brit from the West Midlands.
“Blue Lights” addresses Form 696, a British police licensing document that made it mandatory for concert hosts to inform the police of the racial makeup of said event.
This usually led to heavy police scrutiny and eventual shutdown of events that were largely made up of Black concertgoers.
This sort of intense subject matter displays a songwriting ability far beyond her years, backed up by smoldering vocals full of deep emotion that would suggest she’s been through the wars, despite her age.
But Jorja told The Fader last year that she actually rarely writes about herself, instead using her skills of observation to paint the pictures she turns into her songs, “I don’t like to write about myself. I like listening to people.”
This is an impressive skill of a young songwriter, there is no egotism or troubles haunting Smith.
Her smoky voice and charisma have drawn constant comparisons to Amy Winehouse, which is understandable, but Jorja is not haunted by the same demons as her idol.
She told the Evening Standard earlier this year that she knows she’s in a great position and doesn’t want to jeopardize that,
“I saw the documentary [Amy] four times. It’s sad. Her music is amazing but you make your own decisions. My head’s really screwed on. I know where I want to go, and I know I want to be here singing and writing music for as long as possible. I’m not going to do anything to sabotage that.”
Jorja’s music is irresistible. Singles “A Prince” and “Where Did I Go?” show an incredibly soulful voice floating over new-age jazzy instrumentation. “Where Did I Go?” garnered the attention of Drake, the world’s most powerful A&R, and he recruited Jorja for More Life.
Before More Life was released, Jorja dropped her first project, the EP Project 11. Spanning four songs, Jorja sings about love and loss in such an evocative, pained voice.
“Something In The Way” is a stand out. And those Winehouse comparisons become rather obvious.
Her duet with Maverick Sabre is a stunningly beautiful ballad that combines grimy-sounding synths with bluesy guitar and drums.
It’s a hell of a track with two of England’s brightest young artists.
The four-track EP showed Jorja as a ridiculously exciting talent in music.
Paired with her appearances on Drake’s More Life on “Jorja Interlude” (be thirstier, Drake) and on the house-y “Get It Together” exposed Jorja to the legion of Drake fans and even produced rumors that they were an item.
Smith rubbished those claims while speaking to the Standard, but spoke about the reaction she received from Drake’s legion of fans after her More Life appearances,
“I got more followers on social media and a really good response. His fans really liked me.”
That’s a pretty grounded and diplomatic response from a newly-turned 20-year-old about their presence on one of the biggest albums of the year, but such seems to be the case with Smith.
This year, Jorja has released three songs.
The woman-empowering track “Beautiful Little Fools,” which she dropped on International Women’s Day, hosts the chorus,
“Beautiful little fools
That’s what us girls are destined for
Beautiful little fools
Born to be adored”
Jorja told Vevo that she wrote the song when she was 16 after reading Great Gatsby,
“I wrote this song when I was 16 years old after reading The Great Gatsby. It’s a very special song to me as I wrote it to help myself. To assure myself that all I have to do is be myself. I feel as young girls grow up they’re slightly tainted by what the media says is ‘beautiful’ and I feel like my song can be a little help to them. We are all beautiful in our own individual and special ways.”
My girl can write a song.
Smith has also released “Teenage Fantasy” a song about young love and questioning its validity.
There’s a bigger sound in “Teenage Fantasy” but Smith’s voice continues to carry the record.
Last week, Smith dropped the Preditah-assisted “On My Mind” a much more upbeat track than anything in her previous catalog.
“On My Mind” combines Preditah’s U.K. house production with Jorja’s pipes. Preditah told The Fader about the collaboration,
“The track is uptempo and bubbly which is what I specialize in, and it also has soul and meaning which is what Jorja specializes in.”
It’s a fun video too.
“On My Mind” is an exciting glimpse into the possibilities of Jorja’s career. She can really do whatever the hell she wants musically.
Although lazy and easy comparisons abound to woman artists from Winehouse to FKA Twigs to Rihanna, Smith is less abstract than FKA Twigs, more introspective than Rihanna, and not as haunted as Winehouse.
Jorja Smith is her own artist. A really fucking good one at that.