Review: Jorja Smith, ‘Be Right Back’

The British songstress submits an album-worthy EP that is the most intimate we have heard her so far.

Jorja Smith takes her time when it comes to full-length projects. Her debut album, Lost & Found, was released in 2018 and included songs recorded since 2015. Since then, the British songstress has been in singles mode, releasing collaborations with the likes of Popcaan and Burna Boy to boost her mainstream profile. In preparation for her sophomore record, a short detour is taken in the form of an 8-track EP.

Be Right Back blows certain artists’ LPs out the park, offering nothing but sweet, tender tunes that remind listeners of Smith’s honey-glazed vocals and songwriting.

Jorja Smith knows what works for her, and she presents it well across Be Right Back. The signature themes of youthful love and heartbreak work in matrimony with her meek voice. Opening track and lead single “Addicted” hits all stops of a powerful love song over trip-hop production, channeling genuine emotion through every lyric. It is perhaps the only song on the EP that feels like single material, as the rest of the project indulges in subtle hooks and production.

On the surface, “Gone” is a love song but tackles the death of someone close to Smith who fell victim to a car accident. Knowing this elevates the poignance of the song to a new level, more than the enchanting piano and vocals were already achieving. It is songs like these where the singer will surprise the listener with double-edged lyrics that are easy to dismiss as typical R&B songwriting, but are in reality thoughtfully poetic.

Though similar in vein to her debut, Be Right Back strips the production back even further. “Home” takes a guitar strum and combines it with a passionate performance to create one of Smith’s best songs. “Burn” equally excels in its minimalism, complimenting “Bussdown” with Shaybo that cloaks the vulnerability with bossanova swagger. The minimalism shapes more intimacy with Smith’s words rather than overcompensating through production that is needlessly complex.

“Digging” tackles Jorja’s mental health, offering the most personal lyrics on the EP that is masked by the thumping production and supreme chorus. The themes of stress and overthinking make “Digging” one of the most humane yet addictively catchy moments on the project (“Talked about it, but I’m still stressin’ / Talk to myself, then I’m second guessin”).

If listeners have expected a more experimental transition, “Weekend” could be a sign of what’s to come. Reminiscent of fellow British artists James Blake and FKA Twigs, “Weekend” straddles the line between a habitual Jorja Smith song that takes a dash of risks in its vocal chops and warping outro.

Smith presents this EP as a preliminary record, yet the majority of its tracks are worthy of album placement. If these are tracks that could not make the album, then there is a goldmine waiting to be unveiled.

8 / 10

Best tracks: “Home”, “Addicted”, “Digging”, “Bussdown”, “Weekend”

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