Twenty-one-year-old British singer and songwriter Jorja Smith has been making waves in hip-hop, grime and R&B for the past several years without releasing an album. She collaborated with English rapper Stormzy, made an appearance on Drake’s “More Life,” had her music featured on HBO series “Insecure” and was featured on the Kendrick Lamar-curated “Black Panther” soundtrack. The past few years allowed Smith to be known for her artistry rather than her featured hits. Smith’s distinctive voice is apparent on her debut “Lost & Found,” which defines her position as an artist who has nowhere to go but up.
Smith has a husky voice, with, at times, overly nasally tones. Yet, she is able to balance and blend the genre of soul with jazz and R&B. Despite Smith’s delightful amalgamation of genres, the majority of the record feels too safe. The album doesn’t stray from the conventions of the aforementioned genres, resulting in a sound that is both pleasurable and tedious. However, this familiarity can also captivate listeners.
Many of Smith’s lyrics explore situations that may seem tired or cliché. For instance, the heartfelt lyrics on “Teenage Fantasy” recount exactly that — a teenager fantasizing about being with someone they can’t have. “We all want a teenage fantasy,” she sings, “Want it when we can’t have it/When we got it we don’t seem to want it.”
However, there are a few salvageable tracks on “Lost & Found.” “The One,” which she performed at this year’s Coachella, blends smooth jazz with the classic narrative of pushing away a lover. “Never had to wait for love/Always thought it’d come around,” she croons.
“Lifeboats (Freestyle)” is another standout: Smith raps for nearly three minutes about economic inequality, with a chorus that pays homage to Kanye West’s “All Falls Down.” It’s one of the few moments on the album in which Smith ventures into political commentary, providing a refreshing break from the rest of her love ballads and break-up songs.
On the album is also “Blue Lights,” the single credited with launching her solo career in 2016. In an interview with Pigeons & Planes, she said that when writing “Blue Lights” she had been studying postcolonial British society’s impact on grime music. To further her research, she began asking children and teenagers about what they thought of the police and discovered their ingrained distrust toward the U.K. justice system. Their stories served as the inspiration for “Blue Lights.” “[It’s] about [people] walking around with this guilty conscience, even though [they’ve] done [nothing] wrong,” Smith wrote on Genius.
Another noteworthy track is “Tomorrow,” a piano ballad in which Smith sings about the difficulty of saying goodbye to someone who was once a source of support and solace. In the song, Smith realizes that she was the reason the person left. The track touches on a recurring theme of the album— that of self-knowledge and consequential growth.
Smith’s self-reflective lyrics demonstrate her keen intuition and growing wisdom. Paired with her tendency to research the issues she addresses in her music, Smith embodies the youthful curiosity and precocious ponderings that drive today’s emerging music scene. In the process, she solidifies her place as a restless, answer-seeking woman in today’s tumultuous world.
“Lost & Found” is a testament to Jorja Smith’s ability to deliver a bonafide record as a solo artist. She shows off her songwriting prowess and soulful voice, developing the foundation of an up-and-coming career. With an audience that already spans across the pond, Jorja Smith is only getting ready for a long-lasting career as one of the most soulful songstresses of this generation.