Jorja Smith’s diverse range of styles and genre exercises, as well as her stunning vocal ability, make ‘Lost & Found’ one of the best British pop debuts in years.
Four days after releasing her debut album, Walsall-born Jorja Smith turned 21 years old. In the space of two years from her SoundCloud solely containing her breakthrough track ‘Blue Lights’, she’s made a huge name for herself, featuring on albums of world-class superstars such as Drake’s More Life in 2017 and Kendrick Lamar’s soundtrack for the 2018 phenomenal film Black Panther. However, Lost & Found boldly contains no features, it is solely the powerful and beautiful sound of Jorja Smith.
As the title of the album suggests, it is a reflection of Jorja’s adolescent experiences of growing up, changing and finding yourself. On ‘Teenage Fantasy’ she perfectly depicts the teenage romanticised obsession and the feeling of necessity of being in love as she emotively sings the chorus with such expressive pain and confusion. She integrates the advice of her family and encourages the listener to take their time and enjoy their youth with the rhyming lyric “I need to grow and find myself if I let somebody love me, because at the moment I don’t know me”.
What makes Jorja Smith such a skilled and important young musician is not only her vocal range but her diversity of the vocal styles themselves. Whether it’s the rapping and spoken word of the bridge of ‘Blue Lights’ or ‘Lifeboats (Freestyle)’, the angelic soft and high notes of ‘Tomorrow’ or her Winehouse-like smokiness of the opening title track ‘Lost & Found’, it’s the central attraction of an exceptional album in every respect.
Many of the tracks aren’t new to the listener such as ‘Blue Lights’, ‘Teenage Fantasy’ and ‘Where Did I Go?’ However, as they have been released over a staggered length of time, you are blown away again, especially hearing them back to back. ‘Blue Lights’ is a track that stuns you into silence every time you hear it. Against the ringing piano riff and the hip-hop beat, Jorja’s emotive and harrowing vocals bring the lyrics of racial profiling and discrimination by the police to life with the poignant lyrics of “I wanna turn those blue lights into strobe lights, if you’ve done nothing wrong blue lights should just pass you by”. The track then powerfully ends with an amalgamation of a sample of Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Sirens’, Jorja’s vocals and a police siren.
‘Lifeboats (Freestyle)’ follows a similar theme as Jorja shows off her lyrical skill and word play using the image of a lifeboat to represent privilege. Over a Tom Misch and FKJ-sounding guitar and drum beat she raps with frustration the line of “so why are all the richest staying afloat / when my brothers are drowning even though they’re in the boat?”
Out of the unheard tracks of the album ‘February 3rd’ is an immediate stand out. In terms of its sound it’s more of a move away from Jorja’s predominant jazzy piano-based sound. Instead, its Jorja’s take on R&B with the harpsichord-like high-pitched strings and subtle yet flooding bass, almost like something you would hear out of a jewellery box. Of course her vocals completely dominate with her constant and immediate shifting between high and low pitches as she repeats in the outro “lose yourself from playing games”. ‘Wandering Romance’ also has more of a R&B tinge, but it’s much darker and almost trip-hoppy, reminiscent of FKA twigs and ABRA with Jorja’s haunting vocals, synths and concluding with a trippy guitar solo.
The final section of the album goes heavy on the ballads and heartbreak, but each one has a distinctly different style, meaning the experience doesn’t become repetitive. ‘Goodbyes’ has a particularly intimate sound as Jorja sings constantly shifting in pitch and volume, supported only by the soft finger-picking of an acoustic guitar. Contrastingly, on ‘Tomorrow’ she is solely supported by a piano before the backing vocals of an angelic choir support her in the chorus, taking soul back to its early heavenly gospel roots. ‘Don’t Watch Me Cry’ brings the album to a close with the most heart-breaking track on the album with the sorrowful lyrics of “I’m not crying cause you left me on my own, I’m not crying cause you left me with no warning, I’m just crying because I can’t escape what could have been, are you aware that when you set me free, all I can do is let my heart bleed?” sung with such sharp pain.
Lost & Found is a powerful resume of Jorja Smith’s eclectic mix of lyrical prowess, diverse vocal sounds and styles to date, making for arguably the British pop record of the year. Encompassing a myriad of influences from Amy Winehouse, hip-hop, gospel, soul and R&B, Jorja confidently proves with the diversity of each track that she really can do it all. (9/10) (Sandie Garland)
Listen to Lost & Found by Jorja Smith here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!
Tags: album, FAMM, Jorja Smith, Lost & Found, review, Sandie Garland
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