The road to Jorja Smith's debut album Lost & Found has been a long one. The UK R&B artist has put her heart and soul into the debut over the course of the last three years. And after having it on repeat since its release, we can very much say that it was well worth the wait. Lost & Found is a moving work of R&B that would be impressive for an artist at any stage in their career, let alone their debut. So, we decided to skip the traditional review, because, let's be honest, it's simply too great. Instead, we went through the album track by track and examined what exactly makes us love this album so much.
"Lost & Found"
The opening and title track serves as an impeccable introduction to Smith as an artist. Placing the reverb on max, Smith slowly lets her into her world before beginning the track with a simple yet powerful sample of the artist herself, "Yeah, like that. Sounds cool." It sets the mood for what "Lost & Found," as both a song and an album, sets out to be - effortlessly cool.
"Teenage Fantasy," originally recorded when Smith was 16, delves deep into classic R&B tradition to examine themes of teenage love and self-love. The thematic focus of the track is something that certainly has been done a number of times before in the world of R&B, but Smith's vocals bring a newfound truth to the sentiment. It's something that hasn't been so well-executed since Ms. Lauryn Hill did the same in her stunning debut.
"Where Did I Go?"
For most people, "Where Did I Go?" served as the initial entry point to Smith's soulful musical introspection. The standout single positions the artist's velvety smooth vocals in an ever-increasing line of questioning. It not only served as a wonderful introduction to Smith as an artist, but its cleverly deployed examination as to where one ultimately places the blame for a dissolution of the relationship is something for the ages.
Outside of some fairly interesting production, "February 3rd" is a fairly straightforward song. It's simplistic yet beautiful, allowing ample room for Smith's always charming vocals to move about in the space they deserve. Yet, what really makes this track such a treat is its ending. Smith concludes the track with a brief instant of spoken word that creatively unifies Lost & Found as a cohesive project.
"On Your Own"
Smith's timeless voice has the power to evoke a number of R&B greats before her, such as the aforementioned Ms. Lauryn Hill. However, while "On Your Own" is still very much evocative of another artist, the artist in question is that of Rihanna. The grand intensity present in Smith's vocals cutting through distorted dancehall drums gives the entire experience of it all a Bad Girl RiRi meets the soul of the UK feel.
Photo: Rashid Babiker
Who is set to do the theme for the next Bond film? Because they may just want to consider getting in touch with Smith's people. "The One" is Lost & Found's cinematic masterpiece. Opening on a stirring string section and backed by a solitary piano, Smith is placed in a wholly new context for a grand, sweeping, and majestic piece.
"Tell me why you can't control the feelings you desire." The pointed vocal delivery that arrives early on in "Wandering Romance" breaks up Smith's crooning for a notable break in form. But as a seeming master of an impeccable finishing, one of the song's finest moments comes at its culmination. In the final moments of "Wandering Romance," we are treated to an unadulterated look at the star of the show - Smith's vocals. As everything fades way, instrumentation and production alike, we are given a few seconds to truly appreciate Smith's subtle vocal inflections.
Smith first found inspiration documenting the political and economic issues she witnessed. "Blue Lights" is the culmination of this documentation. The previously released track tackles the reality faced by people of color, both in America and the UK, shifting the police as delivers of salvation to something to be feared. “Blue Lights" sticks with the listener long after Lost & Found finishes, largely thanks to a superbly executed sample of Dizzee Rascal's "Sirens."
Smith's rap is a feast for the senses. "Lifeboats (Freestyle)" is the only track on Lost & Found where she lets her hip-hop side shine, but what truly excels it to grand heights is the lo-fi inspired production. Full of far-off rain sounds and a nonchalant guitar strumming that carries Smith to her final destination, the exquisite production can be attributed to fellow UK artist Tom Misch. The pair excellently feeds off one another. Would it be too much to ask for a full collaborative album or tour?
Despite its name, "Goodbyes" is not the final track on Lost & Found, but it certainly is one of its most noteworthy. For an album consisting of every from lo-fi production, R&B, trip-hop, to UK hip-hop, it's amazing how Smith can make an acoustic track stick out so much. There's not really much else to be said. "Goodbyes" is simply a testament to the power and beauty of Smith's vocals even when the sparsest of elements are employed.
Lost & Found is an album full of moving musical moments, but there will always be something about the way a piano ballad never fails to pull at one's heartstrings. "Tomorrow" is a moving piano ballad with a surprising yet applauded foray into the world of electric guitars. Its grandest moment, however, comes when the background vocalists join with Smith for something transcendent and evocative of a gospel choir.
"Don't Watch Me Cry"
"Don't Watch Me Cry" is the final track, and it is hard to pick a final aspect of it to praise. It's touching, poignant, heart-shattering, and touches upon the deeply human emotions surrounding being left alone in a relationship. The piano work is outstanding. Smith, as per usual, is outstanding in her vocal delivery. If there was a singular aspect of "Don't Watch Me Cry" to applaud, it would be the confessional nature of it all. It encompasses all of what makes Jorja Smith such an awe-inspiring artist. She is an artist not afraid to let her heart bleed for the sake of creative expression.