Jorja Smith is an English singer and songwriter whose heartfelt and streetwise R&B has invoked comparisons to the likes of AlunaGeorge, Rihanna, and Amy Winehouse, the latter of whom she cites as her biggest influence. The Walsall-born artist experienced a swift emergence in the latter half of the 2010s. Shortly after she hit the U.K. indie chart with her moody, MOBO-nominated debut single, “Blue Lights” (2016), she nearly cracked the Top Ten of the U.K. dance chart with “On My Mind” (2017), and after three additional MOBO nominations, she crossed into the Top 40 with the ballad “Let Me Down” (2018). During this time, Smith also contributed to Drake’s More Life playlist and the soundtrack for Black Panther, audience-expanding appearances that intensified anticipation for her own Lost & Found (June 2018). Smith’s album debut, a Top Five U.K. hit, was acknowledged with three Brit Awards nominations and a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. She has continued to build on her success with Be Right Back (2021), an EP preceded by the Top Ten U.K. hit “Be Honest.”
Raised on reggae, soul, and hip-hop, Jorja Alice Smith was encouraged to pursue music by her musician father. She started performing at the age of eight, and shortly thereafter began writing original songs, later earning a music scholarship. After she completed her studies, she made her recorded debut in 2016 with “Blue Lights,” a hip-hop soul single inspired by racist police motives. The song, issued through her own FAMM label, reached number 22 on the U.K. indie chart and was nominated for a MOBO award in the category of Best Song. By the end of 2016, she also added the Maverick Sabre collaboration “A Prince,” the powerful “Where Did I Go?,” and the five-track EP Project 11 to her discography.
Smith’s international profile was elevated in 2017 with contributions to Drake’s playlist More Life. Both of the songs on which she appeared, “Jorja Interlude” and “Get It Together,” charted in multiple territories. A handful of additional solo singles, beginning with “Beautiful Little Fools” and “Teenage Fantasy” and concluding with “On My Mind,” arrived throughout 2017. The last of the batch reached number five on the U.K. indie chart and peaked at number 54 on the pop chart. MOBO nominations followed for Best Female, Best Newcomer, and Best R&B/Soul Act.
In early 2018, Smith released the conflicted ballad “Let Me Down,” which featured grime artist Stormzy and eventually peaked at number 34 on the U.K. chart. Just as notably, she appeared on the Black Panther soundtrack with “I Am,” a collaboration with album orchestrator Kendrick Lamar. This activity neatly set up the June arrival of Lost & Found, Smith’s first album. A number three U.K. hit, it prompted Brit Awards nominations for Album of the Year, Breakthrough Act, and Female Solo Artist. In the U.S., it reached number 41, and Smith was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of Best New Artist. She returned in August 2019 with the track “Be Honest,” featuring Burna Boy, a number eight hit in the U.K. Several other singles and stray tracks preceded the June 2021 arrival of Be Right Back, an eight-track EP. ~ Andy Kellman & James Christopher Monger