In the past year, two-time Brit Award-winner and Midlands representative Jorja Smith has been flying under the radar. She featured on the Tiktok hit ‘Peng Black Girls’ by rising star Enny, put out the dancehall-infused ‘Come Over’ with Jamaican superstar Popcaan and dropped her own songs – the sticky ‘Addicted’ and the plaintive ‘Gone’ – yet has herself been staying out of the limelight. But it’s all for good reason: the 23-year-old is releasing her next album very soon. To tide us over until that day comes, she has given us ‘Be Right Back’, a so-called sonic ‘waiting room’ for all her fans to jam out in.
The eight-track record opens with ‘Addicted’, an opportunity for the Walsall R&B star to show off her sugary vocals. The first big comeback song after acclaimed 2018 debut album ‘Lost & Found’ sets clashing live sounds against ethereal ambience. And Jorja’s just getting you pumped for what seems like an earnest follow-up.
‘Be Right Back’ also sees the 23-year-old dabble in the afroswing sound that defined her first British top 10 hit, 2019’s ‘Be Honest’. She and the self-proclaimed ‘Queen of The South’ Shaybo explores the luxurious lifestyle an artist, which still doesn’t fix the feeling of being used. Here we see a different side of Shaybo – who is known for her aggressive, cocksure rhymes and delivery – as she slows it down with an emotionally intelligent breakdown of the juxtaposition between fame and happiness: “Even with drip, I feel drained / It’s getting long just like braids”.
‘Weekend’ showcases the operatic side of Smith, who goes up into her higher register on the chorus, singing: “I stand out there where it always came alive / Wasting pennies in the night”. Hitting these hit notes, she evokes the alternative stylings of Willow, moving away from her traditional soulful and garage sounds. This minimalist, streak is exciting and refreshing – especially in an R&B world that seems to be rushing back to more traditional and ‘00s-referencing sounds.
As Jorja Smith takes her time to release a second album that lives up to the hype, the steadily sombre ‘Be Right Back’ is a perfect prelude to her next chapter. Experimenting with different vocal registers and taking advantage of how harmoniously her voice goes with live instruments, she’s shared a collection that should leave you itching for her next step. If these are loosies, it’s proof of how top-notch her craft is.
Release date: May 14
Record label: FAMM