Jorja Smith has had a belter of a year. Back in February, she became the first independent artist to take home the coveted BRITs Critics’ Choice Award – following in the footsteps of Adele, Sam Smith and Emeli Sandé. The year before that, she was featured on Drake’s mixtape ‘More Life’. And more recently, she dropped her two biggest commercial successes so far – the Preditah collaboration ‘On My Mind’ and ‘Let Me Down’. But on her long-awaited debut album ‘Lost & Found’, she’s made the unusual choice to omit her two biggest hits (also two of her best songs). The material on the record has been in the works since 2016, and aside from a Dizzee Rascal sample on ‘Blue Lights’, ‘Lost & Found’ sees Jorja Smith stand alone.
There are a few duff tracks towards the end of the record – ‘Goodbyes’, ‘Tomorrow’ and ‘Lifeboats’ are impressively raw and frank, but prove melodically sparse and ultimately a little bland. But for the most part, ‘Lost & Found’ is an impressive debut. Musically, Smith has typically combined robust R&B/pop melodies with captivating, surprising instrumentals. ‘On Your Own’ is a mid-tempo track, but has a dancehall influence and ‘On Your Own’ proves driving, sweeping and breathtakingly cinematic. Her falsetto frequently captivates, and it’s showcased with breezy ethereality best on album opener ‘Lost & Found’ as well as promotional single ‘February 3rd’.
But four tracks stand out as Jorja Smith’s trump cards on the record (forgive me for reminding you of The President That Must Not Be Named): ‘Teenage Fantasy’, ‘Wandering Romance’, ‘Blue Lights’ and ‘Don’t Watch Me Cry’. ‘Don’t Watch Me Cry’ first grabbed my attention when she performed it on Later… with Jools Holland in September 2017, in its moving simplicity, and proves to be a powerful album closer. ‘Wandering Romance’ demonstrates a strong melodic instinct and an utterly compelling build of tension. ‘Teenage Fantasy’ is one of the most radio-friendly songs on the album – it’s very throwback, and almost evokes the Sugababes’ early work (that’s a compliment, I promise!) in Jorja’s lush vocals.
But ‘Blue Lights’ is absolutely the record’s peak. Written with a wisdom beyond her years whilst studying post-colonial influences in grime music, she came across Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Sirens’. Subsequently, she composed an essential record which arrests the listener in its confrontation with racial profiling in the police. The whole record’s worth your time, but if you only listen to one song – let it be ‘Blue Lights’.