Hometown: Walsall, West Midlands
For fans of: Maverick Sabre, Amy Winehouse & Charlotte Day Wilson
Jorja Smith is a soul singer from Walsall, an industrial town 8 miles north-west of Birmingham, a town with very little soul, or even any musical heritage. Now living in London, her sensitive yet sensational voice has captivated an audience over the last 12 months and even won her 4th place in the prestigious BBC Sound of 2017 list.
This audience for the 19-year-old songstress first formed in January 2016 when she posted her first track, Blue Lights, on Soundcloud, whilst still working at Starbucks. Written by a 17-year-old Smith still doing her A levels, the song is inspired by Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Sirens’ and speaks volumes of the police injustice on London youths. ‘I wanna turn those blue lights into strobe lights…maybe fairy lights’ is a poignant lyric, a strong statement from streetwise Smith emphasising her distaste for the common practice. ‘Your boy sounds rushed, fears for his adolescence’ displays how an unnecessary fear thrives inside of many London teens. The need for them to run when they hear sirens, yet have done nothing wrong.
Carry Me Home, a collaboration with fellow soul singer Maverick Sabre and key part on mini album Project 11, is a love song of great depth. Through both a male and female perspective, the song tells of the fading out of their love. ‘I guess the sun still waits here’ a lyric told by Smith, bares her optimism whilst Sabre’s response suggests that he believes that they are in fact better off apart. The combination of the two soul powerhouses makes this the stand-out track in the Jorja Smith discography.
Another highlight of Project 11, Imperfect Circle, has an outro carved from some of the techniques she learnt from her school days. Smith uses a collection of high-pitched vocal ranges, a skill she acquired from singing in French, Latin and German songs in choirs. On the lines of her experimental nature, A Prince is sampled from 17th-century composer Henry Purcell. Her familiarisation with the piece also deriving from her days in education.
Something in the Way has the influence of Amy Winehouse through the phonography. A smooth and slick bassline prompted love song about moving on from a past lover. The haunting Alone features choruses that repeat the phrases ‘Alone’ and ‘So lonely’ smoothly and soulfully. But, on a more emotional level, it almost feels like a scream.
Smith’s unique talent for not just songwriting, but experimenting with sound makes her one of those ‘once-in-a-blue-moon’ artists. One of those beautiful rarities that bring something special and dynamic to the world of music.
Words by Hayley Millross