The Lowdown: After three years of preparation, Jorja Smith is finally ready to step into the spotlight. Smith underwent a meteoric rise in less than a year, going from working as a Starbucks barista to singing the hook on “Get It Together”, one of the best songs on Drake’s 2017 playlist, More Life. That led to appearances on the soundtracks to Black Panther and Insecure and singles with Stormzy and Kali Uchis, displaying the versatility to shift between R&B, grime, garage, and pop, all navigated with a deft hand. Now with Lost & Found, her debut album, she proves that she can carry a complete project on her own, emerging as a bold, new voice.
The Good: Lost & Found is a carefully constructed album, full of songs that play on jazz, boom-bap, and lounge, updating familiar styles with a contemporary sheen. Smith purposefully chose to avoid any features on the album, a confident move that pays off as her songwriting decisions prove a clear command of her range. She initially envisioned Lost & Found as a record of sad love songs, but instead ended up penning several complex songs of desire, avoiding cliche through her emotional clarity and directness. Her strongest moments are when she innovates, such as on the buoyant rapping of “Lifeboats” and the heartbreaking “Blue Lights”, a tale of cycles of racial profiling that places her booming voice front and center.
The Bad: Innovative moments only clarify the contrast of the deflating three adult contemporary songs that close out the album. While “Goodbyes” has a stark minimalism that counters its theatrical melody, the last two settle into a groove that’s too comfortable, especially the grating melodrama of “Tomorrow”. Part of what made Smith’s initial singles so compelling was the way she proved she could stand out on a pulsing garage beat as much as while crooning on a ballad, which she relies a bit too much on towards the end of the album.
The Verdict: As a whole, Lost & Found finds Jorja Smith making a name for herself with presence and poise. Throughout these 12 songs, she commands a mastery of various styles, with enough experiments to flesh out a varied, captivating album. Any indulgences towards the traditional are offset by her raw talent and singular moments that define her debut. Lost & Found is the sound of a true talent who’s already found herself, stepping forward with complete control of her vision as a formidable contender.
Essential Tracks: “February 3rd”, “Blue Lights”, and “Lifeboats (Freestyle)”