Jorja Smith’s “Teenage Fantasy” opens with the determined clamour of a piano. Her voice is sensual and straightforward, carrying a message of unabashed love and honesty that feels wholly empowering. Once the sparse drum pattern finds its rhythm, you realize that while Smith is still crooning about love, it’s with a sense of longing. It’s this particularly evocative style from the 20-year-old Walsall, England native makes her one of the most exciting artists of the year. Her entire collection of work is like this; individual listening experiences full of jazz-inspired nuggets of emotion and wisdom.
After a string of features on Drake’s most recent mixtape, More Life, it seems as if Smith has arrived. And while there’s no denying that her collaboration with Drake provided a platform to increase her exposure, what’s even more exciting is the fact that she didn’t really need it. With singles like “Blue Lights” and “Where Did I Go?,” I have a feeling Smith will show up whenever pleases. And until she does, we decided to break down our favourite Jorja Smith tracks and explain why she should definitely be on your radar.
“Something In The Way”
Listen: When taking a walk around the block hoping to work through relationship stress.
Smith is an artist whose passion and vocal precision deserve to be heard through a live performance. Her extended wail at the end of each chorus puts the virtuosity of her classically trained voice on display and it’s here, on this song, where the comparisons to Amy Winehouse make the most sense. It’s also a track, anchored by a funky bassline, that after listening to it for awhile, flips in on itself. Smith analyzes past relationships, but seems perfectly at ease with not reaching a resolution.
Listen: On that that late night Uber ride home.
This is one of the singles that turned heads everywhere and created Jorja Smith fans on both sides of the pond. Smith puts on a raw vocal performance, telling the story of a good kid caught up in the wrong shit and pleads with him not to run from those blue lights. It kicks off with a fantastic 80s sounding keyboard melody, and there’s a jazzy twist to the production that turns Smith’s voice into an instrument.
“Let Me Love You”
Listen: When celebrating the small stuff with your significant other.
It doesn’t matter that it’s a cover of Mario’s 2004 smash hit, Smith’s cover is both elegant and worthy of attention. As of yet, there’s no studio recording of the cover, but the BBC Radio One live performance is smooth and soulful. With just a piano for accompaniment, while Smith’s tender vocal performance is stripped back, you can tell she’s having fun with it — and completely understands how the legacy of song captured such a specific early 2000s feel. And who knows, maybe “Let Me Love You” will show up on her upcoming debut album.
“Carry Me Home”
Listen: During those moments when you’re searching for a new perspective.
When “Carry Me Home” finishes, you realize you aren’t as sad as you thought you’d be. Of course, it has a melancholic tone, but that’s not the only thing it conjures up. By the time Smith and Maverick Sabre end their story, lovers leave as friends. At it’s core, it showcases Smith’s ability to be comfortable on her own and the track shows maturity well beyond her 20 years.
Listen: On a sunny Saturday while cleaning your apartment and feel just as confident as Smith sounds.
The last song on Project 11, “Imperfect Circle” is full of life and shows Smith fully in control of where it’s going. It’s a quick boom-bap beat with some airy synths filling out the instrumentation, but it’s Smith’s vocals that stand out. It’s a track anchored by single refrain, but she she keeps pace with measured confidence that never wavers.