“This project is like a waiting room to my second album,” said Jorja Smith in an interview with ELLE UK; and, admittedly, “Be Right Back” (2021) is a natural progression of her previous works and their quest on finding and fitting in on a world of falling. In a fun-sized package of eight tracks, “Be Right Back” fluctuates between reggae-tinged moments to twinkling keyboards and drum beats, but still lacks on delivering the punch of unexpectantly onto its listeners, as expected from this meantime fix ahead of her sophomore production.
- Jorja’s R&B and soul in Lost & Found (2018)
Conveying Smith’s emotional vocals as the primal instrument against a sparse, R&B and soul-inspired backdrop, the debut album “Lost & Found” (2018) excelled at making the concerns of a generation — finding and growing within itself — sound elegant.
Though the more upbeat pieces aren’t necessarily memorable, the singer displayed her unmatched strength as a melodic storyteller on more acoustic and laid-back productions, like “Goodbyes” and “Don’t Watch Me Cry”. But it’s “Teenage Fantasy” that summarizes satisfyingly this well-paced album: being one of the most sonically complex tracks on “Lost & Found”, the song encapsulates the restlessness of youth — “we all want a teenage fantasy / want it when we can’t have it / when we got it we don’t seem to want it”.
- “Be Right Back” as a natural sequel to her debut
Echos of this 2018 project can be easily distinguished in “Be Right Back”. “The One”, from her debut record, draws similarities to the EP’s “Digging”, alike in their charged, dramatic instrumentals and bouncy groove. The coming-of-age thread is also linked to the new EP’s lyrics. In “Burn”, one of the singer’s most intimate moments takes ground as she ardently voices: “You burn like you never burn out / Try so hard you can still fall down / Keep it all in but you don’t let it out”.
These word-spoken, tender verses can almost be considered – alongside her charged yet soothing vocals – a trademark of Smith’s at this point. The Lost & Found-esque introspection can be seen in the lyrics of “Digging”: “I just wanna be good so I can go to heaven / Who do I ask? Who even knows where I turn?”. In “Gone”, the theme of loss and grief is brought with tact as Jorja Smith emotionally sings “tell me how the world seems to get along without you / tell me how to keep my world moving on without you”.
- Experimental instrumentation and playful vocals
The EP Be Right Back also maximizes what Smith brushed on her debut: layered, more experimental instrumentation. “Time” shows that Smith can maintain her poise while accompanied by more prominent sounds, like lively bass and guitar percussions; “Bussdown”, a feature with South London rapper Shaybo, is also a display of her newfound conciliation between energetic and relaxed, swagger yet still touched by the vulnerability. But both still pale against Jorja Smith’s expertise in slow-paced songs: “Home”, led only by guitar strumming and gentle, playful vocals, is one of the record’s highlights, showing again the superb Smith and stripped back instrumentation combo.
The extended play is not as cohesive as her debut work, though it can be seen as its extension for it brings similar narratives and sounds. However, it achieves perfectly what the project aims for: an amusing stopgap until a more sophisticated record arrives. As we wait for Jorja Smith to be right back with her sophomore studio album, Be Right Back meanders the artist’s journey so far as a rising R&B talent, while it also leaves us wondering: what is next in store?
The article above was edited by Karen Oliveira.
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