Jorja Smith is the whole package. Following the success of her single “Blue Lights,” Smith’s fame quickly swelled. Hip-hop already loves her. Last spring Drake snagged her talents for his More Life playlist. Additionally, she appeared on Kendrick Lamar’s Black Panther soundtrack. Jorja and her velvety vocals caught my ears in early 2016. “Blue Lights” is wise beyond its years. The English singer will turn 21 next Monday. Her poised pen drips with maturity despite this being her debut record. Smith’s voice dances across these 12 tracks with relative ease, charming from start to finish. She enchants me yet does so without forcing sensuality. It is simply a result of her God-given talent. Jorja Smith carves a place for herself in the mainstream going forward with this release. While not a perfect album, Lost & Found indeed holds its own against even the most celebrated R&B acts of today.
During the first half of this debut is where you’ll find gold. The back end of Lost & Found performs competently. However, the first six songs bear slightly more consistency overall. My favorite of the bunch goes to “February 3rd”. Prior to the album’s release, a close friend of mine suggested it to me. His name is Ben. I told my dude Benny that I’d get to it later. I love this song. So, thanks for your great taste as always, bro. That hook gets me every time. “Why don’t you lose yourself for me?” Don’t mind if I do, Jorja. Subtle tambourine and a robust synth line meld beautifully into Smith’s luscious performance like two lovers in a lip lock. Also, “Teenage Fantasy” stood out to me. As young as she is, Jorja knows how to tell a compelling story. She taps into her past, describing pinpoint emotions near effortlessly.
When we’re young, we want what we can’t have. It’s a simple truth she wraps in equally simple yet effective songwriting. The tune of “Teenage Fantasy” helps set the bar for the rest of the album. Speaking of substantial lyricism, I must return to “Blue Lights“. Two years later and this song doesn’t miss a beat. Smith turns the pages of her mind to paint a picture of troubled youth. Inspired by her friend leaving his backpack, which held a small switchblade, at her house, Jorja imagined a world of wrong-place-wrong-time. Although her social commentary differs from the intricate clarity of a Father John Misty or Janelle Monáe, the potential is here. Rather than demote herself to one-trick pony status, Jorja branches out. “Lifeboats (Freestyle)” is a refreshing piece of vocal experimentation. She tries her hand at rapping. And she does surprisingly well.
Perhaps her accent intrigues me; I wouldn’t put it past me. Nevertheless, the freestyle shows the inner workings of the Brit’s self-awareness. Personally, I would’ve liked to hear this track end the project. In the final six songs Lost & Found loses some of its momentum. This is likely due to the pacing of the last three tracks, all of which are soft ballads. “Goodbyes” and “Tomorrow” share the same function in the sequence of the tracklist. Yet Smith’s vocal performances on both deserve a spot on the album. However, the album closes in typical fashion. The slow piano ballad “Don’t Watch Me Cry” is a decent song, though in the wake of two similar efforts it fails to make much of an impression. Additionally, “Wandering Romance” ended up being forgettable for me. Conversely, as a whole, Lost & Found is a strong start to a blossoming career.