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Jorja Smith soars above it all on falling or flying

"falling or flying"

Release date: 29 September 2023
Jorja Smith falling or flying cover
02 October 2023, 09:00 Written by Red Dziri

After 2018's widely celebrated Lost & Found, Jorja Smith centres her art yet again in ambivalent feelings about her own place in the world.

So much so that she decided to name her new album falling or flying and divided the tracklist into two parts accordingly (“Try and Fit In” acting as some kind of middle point).

Smith sings “I could be falling, flying / I wouldn’t know the difference” on the title track. No matter how high the jump, the singer seems more ready than ever to bounce back. Already remarkably self-assured on her debut full length, she projects an even more confident sound on falling or flying.

Case in point, “Try Me” is a defiant answer to anyone who has ever tried to belittle her. “She Feels” addresses an ex very stoically (“What have you done for me?”) while “GO GO GO'' dismisses a needy lover with stone-cold ease (“I don’t know you that well / And I’m not trying to get to know you”). Both showcase how Smith has grown infinitely more resolute since we were first introduced to her.

This hardened confidence is the catalyst for bolder choices and further experimentation with an already versatile and wide-ranging sound. Falling or flying is filled with new and different textures. Percussions abound and fill a more prominent place in the songs’ fabric. Upbeat single “Little Things” features one of 2023’s most memorable beats. Intricate and bright, it provides the perfect landing for Smith’s effortless vocal somersaults. Slightly reminiscent of her 2017 collaboration with Preditah (“On My Mind”), the track ups the ante as her most infectious song to date.

Whereas many of Lost & Found’s tracks felt stripped to their bare bones, most of the tracks here feel built from the ground up. The sleek title track and its intense vocal layering make for one of the album’s most enthralling spots. On the flip side, songs like “Make Sense” and “Lately” sound so extemporaneous they struggle to leave a long-lasting impression. The feeling is only reinforced by the direct effectiveness of the songs they’re wedged between.

If anything, in the four years since her full-length debut, Smith has cultivated a strong flair for drama, as showcased in the closing leg of falling or flying. “Backwards” ends on an elaborate flourish of strings that launches the listener into the grandiose closer. “What if my heart beats faster?”. The build-up and following release are so satisfying it’s hard not to keep the track on repeat. In the relatively short timespan since Jorja Smith’s proper introduction to large audiences, she’s already mastered the art of the slow burn – and her flame isn’t waning just yet.

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