Image credit: Chubb Media
‘There is no agenda, I just like making tunes’, said Jorja Smith in a recent interview by Jules Boyle. Jorja, at the time in the process of releasing her second album, ‘Falling or Flying’, came across at a time in which many artists may be at their most fallible, yet in a more profound paradox, I was struck by the ultimate vitality of Jorja’s words ‘I just like singing and jamming’ she said. To some (A.K.A my past English teachers), this might come across as demoting Jorja’s work, (‘singing without substance’), but on the other hand I find myself represented more and perhaps I can sense Jorja’s music as more of a companion through my everyday life. She is more than a companion and can resonate with any spirit or soul, and to me, this is what I consider to be a true artist.
‘Falling or Flying’ is Jorja’s second album and it is perhaps Jorja’s work that is at her most spontaneous height and can be signified as really being a work of her own. When I think of Jorja Smith’s work to date, the word that comes to mind is fusion. In many ways, whether it be her collaboration with Ezra Collective or the jazz soul of Jorja’s debut album Lost and Found, she has impressed nature as a Jazz feminine figurehead in the UK Jazz scene, our very own Ella Fitzgerald. It is when, however, you study other aspects of her past discography, whether it’s her Be Honest track featuring Burna Boy, or On my mind, these account for some of the music that has brought Jorja some of the most notoriety, whilst also representing a move away from the more jazzy aspects of her work towards the RnB-pop scene.
It is this notoriety that means if Jorja was to walk into a building called music opportunities, it would be like something had knocked all the doors away. Having the ability to represent more niche areas of the music world as a star, whilst also have the ability to join the Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo world cruise ship. Personally this ‘Falling and Flying’ period represented a crossroads, and a move in any substantial musical direction could have been significant. To a student such as myself; distant from the action only able to speculate, a new album can feel somewhat like the new season of a Netflix show, and beyond the pure musical enjoyment that all music listeners experience (other than 3-5% of us unfortunately), a new album is a revealing statement on an artist’s musical direction.
Eventually, as the moment came in which I could finally listen to Jorja’s latest work, I realised that she had metaphorically split the red sea, like Moses, instead acting as a prophet in removing this fatalistic, reductive worldview, that one must cross and stay within one musical box, rather than traversing through many. In her interview with Jules Boyle, Jorja outlines certain the simplistic, spontaneous nature of her creative process:
‘I never have an agenda when I’m making tunes, I just like singing and jamming. 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’.
Credit: Chubb Media
Jorja implies the illegitimacy of our artistic judgements. If she was to write her own interpretation of Rene Descartes teachings, she would say ‘I sing, therefore I am’, to replace Descartes own notion of ‘I think, therefore I am’. Ultimately, her music is born out of her own in the moment insights. When it comes to the ‘Falling and Flying’ this has left us with a reflective as well as eclectic album, ranging from the visceral jungle, jazzy beats of ‘Little things’, to fun, pop mixes such as ‘GO GO GO’, slow piano ballads like ‘What if my heart beats faster’, and spiritual, choral mixes such as ‘Greatest gift’. Jorja ultimately rejects the uniformity that a thematic attitude to artistic creation might demand, rather evoking a sense of independence. Jorja’s vocals, with an electric, empowering vitality, charge the energy of her music like a flash of lightning striking a deep ocean.
Jorja defines her musical style through this spontaneous eclecticism. Personally, I feel that we live in a world in which having an ‘agenda’ has become fashionable, (maybe this is rather just greater self-awareness within the artistic world for socio-cultural issues), but often the fact that an agenda has become a trend can act to dilute the purpose and velocity of any agenda, as the social issues we care about get lost in the noise. It is in this regard that I find Jorja’s take on music quite refreshing, and she has truly brought a focus back towards an ‘art for art’s sake’ attitude. I look forward to what music she may bring to the fore next.