Review: Jorja Smith, Be Right Back

Abra Heritage | Opinion and Debate Editor

Jorja Smith’s latest project begins with cries that ‘you are not addicted to me’. I have to disagree with you on that one, Jorja, because I’ve had Lost and Found on repeat since its release in 2018. Winner of the Brit Critic’s Choice Award (2018) and Best British Female Artist (Brits, 2019), Smith stands at the forefront of the UK’s R&B and Neo Soul scene. Smith’s dynamic vocal ability is what dominates her music, a mixture of Winehouse-esc britishness and Lauryn-Hill-like verbal power. Currently sitting with over 11 million monthly listeners on Spotify, Smith’s rise doesn’t seem to be slowing.

Smith has asked for fans to not consider Be Right Back as her second album: ‘It’s called Be Right Back because it’s just something I want my fans to have right now’, she said. ‘This isn’t an album and these songs wouldn’t have made it’. The movement between tracks makes it hard to believe that the songs weren’t crafted as an album. Addicted opens the project, a soulful, dreamy track, and perhaps the strongest out of the eight records, with a synth line written to be stuck in your head for days. This is followed by Gone, a track with a more defined groove, leading into Shaybo’s entrance in Bussdown, a much busier song, with an almost comedic use of the airhorn in its opening bars.  Matching lyrical themes similarly hide Smith’s dismissal of the tracks as album worthy. Motifs of loneliness, misdirection, and romance dominate the project, and are distinctly reminiscent of tracks from Lost and Found such as Blue Lights and Teenage Fantasy. This musical movement paired with verbal symmetry makes for a project that feels fresh and yet at home.

It doesn’t feel wholly fair to compare Be Right Back to Lost and Found. Be Right Back, instead, needs to be viewed as a project of growth and experimentation. Analysing the lack of instrumental diversity, features, or general substance in the project seems misplaced after Smith’s clear instruction that Be Right Back is not to be viewed as her sophomore album. That is not to say that tracks should be immune from criticism. Certainly, some of the records seem to have lost their Smith-feel. Digging’s aggressive rhythmic honing feels ill-matched to Smith’s typical style of vocal domination, and the second half of the project generally feels a little rough around the edges.

If Be Right Back features Smith’s discarded tracks, then her second album promises nothing but flair. We can expect more of her dazing vocal range, lyrical genius, and dreamy synth to come. In the meantime, I’ll be adding Addicted to my ‘crying but it’s cool’ playlist.  

Be Right Back was released on 14th May 2021. For further information or to buy the project, visit Jorja Smith’s website: https://www.jorjasmith.com/.

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