Rarely has a track created as widespread an industry frenzy than Jorja Smith’s debut single “Blue Lights”. The sublime ballad earned her a MOBO nomination, a top spot on The Guardian's Future 50, a slot on NAO’s tour, and accolades from every notable tastemaker. Yet with only "A Prince" and the aptly named "Where Did I Go?” to tide us over the ten months since, pressure has been mounting on the young singer’s next release.
But with her first EP Project 11, Smith proves that the hype surrounding her is justified, and then some.
The EP opens with “Something In The Way”, an understated ballad featuring a stunning choral refrain that betrays Smith’s classical training. Noodling guitars and lazy jazz riffs give her lower range a chance to shine, and her soulful tone calls to mind the early releases of Amy Winehouse - a long time hero of Smith’s.
Next up is “So Lonely”, a raw and unguarded piano ballad, whilst “Carry Me Home” appears in two guises; firstly with Thea Gajic in a D’Angelo-inspired interlude, and secondly featuring the rasping vocals of Maverick Sabre, with whom Smith also wrote “A Prince”. Finished with the lilting ‘Imperfect Circle’, Project 11 shows one thing: that Smith is capable of writing stunning pop ballads whilst retaining the edge and relevance that broke “Blue Lights” ten months ago.
With her grassroots fanbase and self-released hits, Smith is indicative of a new wave of talent proving they don’t need traditional industry-backed channels to break brilliant new music. Having now earned her pick of the labels, and with huge streaming and social media figures to boot, there’s no doubt that the young singer is destined for big things.
Since it's release, Project 11 has picked up features in Spotify's New Music Friday and Annie Mac’s Hottest Record, and with a sold out London show on 7 December – Jorja Smith looks unstoppable. For once, believe the hype: this girl is about to blow up.