From the moment we pressed play on Jorja Smith’s ‘Blue Lights’ last year, it was clear that the teenage songstress is a very special talent. Over a year later, the Walsall-born singer has continued to prove that point time and again, most recently appearing on Drake’s ‘More Life’ playlist with duet ‘Get It Together’ and a dedicated interlude.
However, those packing out her shows throughout the UK this week aren’t just here for the hype. She’d already sold out most of the venues before the 6 God gave his blessing, off the back of her own material, including last year’s ‘Project 11’ and recent single ‘Beautiful Little Fools’ released for International Women’s Day in March.
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Jorja’s voice transcends what’s hot or not; it doesn’t subscribe to any musical trends because it doesn’t have to. When she takes to the stage to perform, the rest of the venue awash with darkness, the rest of the crowd fade out of the picture. Suddenly it’s just you and her, as she effortlessly consumes the entire room with just the slightest breath of vocal. She plunges you into a dream as she captivates with songs from her lean back catalogue, against the sensitive backing of her live band. She keeps talk down to a minimum, and allows her music to do the talking; a candid narrative that exposes the innermost feelings of a young girl moving to the big city to chase her dreams.
When she does come around to performing the upbeat ‘Get It Together’, towards the end of her set, you emerge from the trance only to realise that you’re in a room full of people dancing to the rhythm of Black Coffee and singing along with the infectious hook. Pop music is certainly not out of reach for Jorja, who has so far focussed her career around intimate ballads. She tops this off with an encore of ‘Carry Me Home’, a cover of Luther Vandross’ ‘Never Too Much’ mashed with Drake’s ‘Too Good’, and ends with ‘Blue Lights’, the track that began Jorja’s odyssey.
A timeless vocalist with a lengthy career ahead, Jorja is best witnessed live and as intimate as possible. You feel lucky to have witnessed Jorja Smith at this point in her career, because it’s clear that it won’t be this way much longer. She has the scope to go as big as she wants to, she’s just taking her time.
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Words: Grant Brydon
Photography: Vicky Grout