Jorja Smith’s debut outting is a pain-filled masterpiece coloured by the experience of a soul beyond its years.
The most naked expression of ones soul is an occurrence that happens in flashes and spells, just enough and it’s cathartic, too much and you’re primed for self-destructive. In that respect, “Lost & Found” is the perfect title.
The arrival of Jorja Smith didn’t materialise out of thin air, quite the opposite in fact, it’s been a long time coming. If you trawl through YouTube you’ll find videos of a young Jorja in her school uniform singing covers of Katy B and Alex Clare. The perception however is very different. Her decision to refrain from interviews and release music at a measured pace has bread success, but also meant that our exposure to her has been limited to small, shot-like doses.
At the beginning of 2017, Jorja Smith’s talents caught the attention of superstar rapper, Drake and she was quickly whisked away to feature on his “More Life” playlist. She appeared on two songs; “Get Together” a serviceable pop song and “Jorja’s Interlude”. A commercial breakthrough or a sign of things to come? Was Jorja’s unique sound about to be lost in the machine, singing lyrics to songs written for Jennifer Lopez on a playlist? Thankfully, this wasn’t the case.
The underwater effect at the beginning of the album makes you feel like you’re submerged from the moment you press play. The sound of Jorja harmonising against the backdrop of muffled drums and guitar strings is troublingly inviting; reminiscent of Sirens luring sailors to their demise. By the third song (February 3rd) she repeatedly asks the question “why don’t you lose yourself for me?” and it’s difficult to find a rebuttal… (f*ck it, I’m in)
Healing From Within. Thematically the album focuses on the effects of unrequited love, but very rarely points the finger of blame. Even when it does, it’s largely a case of “When you point one finger, there are three fingers pointing back to you.” It’s a project riddled with soul-searching and self-scrutiny – she poses rhetorical questions on 13 out of the 14 songs (with the exception of “The One” for those wondering). On “Teenage Fantasy” – an anthem for all of the people who have realised that they’re more in love with the idea of someone than they are the actual person – she finds the answer to most of her questions. “I need to grow and find myself before I let somebody love me because at the moment I don’t know me”. As many before her have found out, its a process and not an immediate solution.
The Art Of Sequencing. “Lost & Found” is a seamless cover-to-cover listen, everything just fits. Like pages of a diary, each song is a continuation of the same thoughts, experiences and sentiments. The whimsical fantasy of “February 3rd” crashes down into the harsh realities of “On Your Own”; which then manifests into a guarded heart on “The One”; before spiralling into a moment of emotional backtracking and second-thoughts on “Wandering Romance”.
Its sound is defined as much by the songs that were included as it is by the ones that were left off. “On My Mind” was the most viewed video on her YouTube page at the time of the album’s release. Whilst other artists would have put it on the album because of its popularity, Jorja decided to leave it off. Its up-tempo, chopped up beat pattern would be at home at any underground rave, but not so much on this album. It was a courageous (and ultimately right) decision to leave it for the radio and retail shoppers.
Painting Pictures With The Colour Blue. The astonishing command she has over her vocals at such young age make it easy to overlook her greatest skill; the ability to meticulously construct a world within her music. “Blue Lights” is a full on movie – a tale of youths trying to escape the trappings of inner-city life, gang culture and encounters with the police. It’s complete with conversations interwoven into the lyrics and a detailed description of their surroundings. So detailed in fact, that I chose Jorja’s performance on “Colors” as the accompanying visual instead of the music video. Her description is so vivid that the video does it a disservice. The video you create in your head, with your eyes closed, guided by Jorja’s narration, is superior to the one shot with the cameras.
When exploring this topic, we are given a glimpse of Jorja’s range on “Lifeboats (Freestyle)”. She flaunts her Walsall accent, confidently rapping her way through a social critique of the value of money and the failure of the system to safeguard its most vulnerable. Offering something different to the vocal highs of “Don’t Watch Me Cry”
A Song For Us All. The poetic irony is that the song on the album that will live longest in the memory is the one about the finality of death (“You’re never coming back down/You belong to the stars and the clouds”). “Goodbyes” is a song which captures the familiar pain of bereavement, like struggling to find closure or regretting words that were never exchanged, but it has a certain vagueness to it (e.g. no names or definitive characteristics). You don’t know who Jorja’s talking about, but you know the feeling she’s describing, so you fill in the blanks. It forces you to internalise and replicate the pain through your own lens. It becomes a song about your loss as much as hers.
The opening words on the album,“Yeah like that, sounds cool“, are indicative of the feel of the whole project. This is an assured debut by an artist who is in full control of every songs’ messaging and sound, even if the same cannot be said about her love life. In her own words…
“Well, sometimes you could be lost, you could be found. I’ve been lost, I’ve been lost again and I’ve been found, Then I found myself but I’m constantly finding myself” (February 3rd)
Have You Listened To “Lost & Found” (I’m TWO Years Late)? What Songs Spoke To You The Most? Would You Rate It Higher Or Lower Than I Did?
As Usual Comments Are Encouraged!