Words: Heather Collier
After a five-year-long wait, the Grammy-nominated UK singer and song-writer Jorja Smith has finally unveiled her 16-track sophomore studio album, ‘Falling or Flying’.
Since the global success of ‘Blue Lights’ and her debut album ‘Lost & Found’, Smith has come a long way from her humble beginnings in Walsall. In 2018, Smith won the BRIT Critics' Choice Award, took home Best British Female Artist the following year, and has performed and collaborated alongside music royalty – from appearing on tour with Bruno Mars, to working with FKA Twigs, Burna Boy, and Kendrick Lamar, to releasing hit songs with Drake and Kali Uchis.
Taking on an entirely new direction, ‘Falling or Flying’ is perhaps her most ambitious body of work yet. Produced by powerhouse duo DAMEDAME*, one of whom Smith has known since she was a teenager, the album welcomes a deep maturity as she experiments with a kaleidoscope of different sounds. Smith lays bare her innermost thoughts and feelings over the course of the past two years, along with her own personal evolution as an artist coveting international stardom.
“Lost & Found was me around 16-20, while this new one is me at 24-26,” says Smith.
“I’ve stepped into womanhood, I’m a lot more sure of myself and I’ve got more things to say, with less observations and more actual lived-in experiences.”
With a laid back approach to recording, Smith is far less concerned with concept and conveying a message to her fans, relenting towards a specific theme. Instead, she feels and records within the moment, speaking directly from the heart as she denotes her experiences with toxic relationship cycles, womanhood, heartbreak, and imposter syndrome. There is the sense of a healing process throughout, and an overall feeling of acceptance as her journey unfolds.
“I never have an agenda when I’m making tunes, I just like singing and jamming,” Smith explains.
“There’s no concept or themes, but I guess there’s a lot of self-realisation as every song ends with a full stop, like very abruptly and just like *that*, which wasn’t planned either, so it’s all very definitive and very much where I am right now. So, without it being a deliberate statement, it is.”
After packing up her life in 2015 to kick start her career in London, Smith has since moved back to her beloved hometown of Walsall, a place that continues to be a safe space for her. Smith is said to have found her 400-year-old ‘dream home’, a rural farmhouse and sanctuary where she can relax, record, and completely be herself, away from the industry static and glare of the public eye.
Smith has always strived to release her records independently, not allowing major labels to breathe down her neck. Recording this album has allowed her the rare opportunity to find freedom, live authentically, and put herself first.
The title track is highly symbolic of her life throughout this time, comparing her progression both as an artist and a woman to the idea of falling and flying – highlighting how mayhem and success can often have the same sensation. ‘I could be falling, flying, I wouldn’t know the difference,’ she sings.
“It was really sick making this album with these women I know and love. We just laugh, eat food, chat shit, laugh some more, sing, jam, talk about what we want to write about and then put it all in the songs.”
Other notable tracks include the previously released ‘Little Things’, an upbeat, Latin hip-shaker primed for any dancefloor, proving to be the sound of the summer after several floor-filler remixes.
The dancehall-infused ‘Feelings’ features UK rapper J Hus, boasting some unexpected, seductive harmonies between the pair, whilst ‘GO GO GO’ is an indie-pop earworm laced with a surprising rocky feel and vocal to match – an adventurous move for Smith as she begins to transcend genres.
‘Greatest Gift’ features Jamaican reggae singer and song-writer Lila Iké, a track reminiscent of traditional, sultry R&B with whispers of gospel, coupled with other highly percussive, conversational tracks like ‘Lately’, harking back to the romantic R&B of the noughties, specifically that of Craig David.
The penultimate track, ‘Backwards’ introduces a softness and a longing, with a theatrical violin that blends seamlessly into the final track – two raw, reflective ballads that can be likened to old school Rihanna.
Solidifying herself as one of the main voices in UK R&B, Smith is a young artist with an old soul; one that inevitably has a long, exciting career ahead.
“There are so many people I’d love to work with, I’m always scared to say them out loud in case I jinx it! But Frank Ocean, 100% Frank Ocean. I absolutely love him.” she adds.
In honour of the release of the album, Smith has announced a series of album launch live shows throughout London, Bristol, Brighton, and Nottingham, along with a handful of intimate headline shows. Commencing in Birmingham on November 7th, Smith will then go on to perform in Manchester on November 9th, before concluding the short run in London on November 10th.
“I’ve never been more excited to get onstage and let people hear what I’ve been working so hard on these last few years. I love being in the studio so much, but I love being on the road and playing in front of people just as much, so I honestly can’t wait to get back out there.”
‘Falling or Flying’ is OUT NOW.
Tickets for Jorja's live shows are on sale via jorjasmith.com.
28-Sep-23 London Kingston PRYZM Outstores
4-Oct-23 London Outernet Outstores
5-Oct-23 London Outernet Outstores
7-Oct-23 London Kingston PRYZM Outstores
9-Oct-23 Bristol SWX Outstores
14-Oct-23 Brighton Chalk Outstores
15-Oct-23 Nottingham Level Outstores
7-Nov-23 Birmingham O2 Academy
9-Nov-23 Manchester Albert Hall
10-Nov-23 London Troxy