HC Durham Loves... Jorja Smith

The soulful singer Jorja Smith: a rising star and role model for young women. Hailed as a ‘gifted storyteller’ by the Independent and ‘wise beyond her years’ by the Guardian, Midlands-born singer Jorja Smith is one to watch.  She published her first song ‘Blue Lights’ onto Soundcloud at the mere age of 18 and has since released several singles including collaborations with Drake and Preditah.

The BBC has likened the tones of Smith’s voice to those of Amy Winehouse, Corinne Bailey Rae and Rihanna.  Yet her music is undoubtedly unique, combining profound lyrics with an unconventional array of genres including soul, jazz and R&B.

2017 has been a successful year thus far for this rising female star – ‘Beautiful Little Fools’, ‘Teenage Fantasy’ and ‘On My Mind’ have all been added to her ever-expanding repertoire.  The first track, ‘Beautiful Little Fools’ was inspired by a line from The Great Gatsby; Daisy hopes that her daughter becomes a fool because that is ‘the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool’. 

Most songs with the word ‘beautiful’ in the title (e.g. those of Christina Aguilera and Sean Kingston to name a few) are associated with love, looks and downright cheese.  Smith’s take on the term, however, acts as an ironic and melancholic comment on our persisting patriarchal society – a society in which girls are wrongly socialised into believing that being a ‘beautiful’ object of the male gaze is a means of gaining respect and succeeding in life.

Beautiful little fools

That's what us girls are destined for

Beautiful little fools

Born to be adored

 

Most of these girls pick up her brush

They might not like art, but their face is a canvas

Designing something that is not their reflection

Becoming a beautiful little Hollywood perception

 

Such astute analysis is not limited to this melody.  Take another of Smith’s 2017 releases, ‘Teenage Fantasy’, in which she deconstructs young love and discourages listeners from rushing into relationships in order to ‘fit in’:

When we are young

We all want someone

Who we think is the one

Just to fit in

 

The singer’s solution is two-fold.  Firstly, it is to slow down and enjoy life:

There's no need to rush

Take your time

Life's a big old ride

Sit back and enjoy the vibe

 

And, secondly, it is to mature and flourish as a person yourself:

I need to grow and find myself before I let somebody love me

Because at the moment I don't know me

Claiming to always ‘make something with a meaning’, Jorja Smith is not just a pretty face or a soulful voice.  She represents a raw talent, is an advocate for honesty, and a role model for young girls.  ‘I want parents of kids to be happy that they’re listening to my music’ she proclaimed when discussing the sexualisation of women in many modern music videos

So what does the future hold for the humble artist?  Earning fourth place on the BBC Sound of 2017 list will certainly boost her popularity.  Despite this, Smith’s feet remain firmly on the ground; she has shunned signing a record deal and is determined to forge her career as an independent musician. 

In fact, Jorja seems to have nailed Destiny’s Child’s concept of the ‘independent woman’.  She started writing her own music at the age of eleven, began 6 a.m. shifts at Starbucks in 2015 to earn a living, and established fame herself through Soundcloud and YouTube.  One of her music videos was even filmed on her own aunt’s staircase (‘Where Did I Go?’).

If you ladies out there take one thing from this article let it be this – flaunting your body confidently like Beyoncé and Rihanna is NOT the only way to help women ‘run the world’.  It can actually prove to be rather counterproductive.  How many of you have heard someone claim one of the two queens of R&B to be their so-called ‘girl crush’?  Indeed, we females are guilty of objectifying each other too.

Ultimately, judging people on appearances and flocking like sheep to fit in belittles us and our human capacity. I would hope that as co-existing humans we possess a sufficient level of perspicacity to surpass the superficiality of ‘rating’ people on their looks and treating each other as objects.  Unfortunately, this is something many students participate in and experience on a daily basis at university and beyond.  

So what can we do?  We must stop judging women based on their booties and actually listen to what they have to say.  Listen to the likes of Jorja Smith, Simone de Beauvoir, and Malala Yousafzai.  Let us learn to respect the non-conformists who eschew society’s expectations and, at the same time, let them inspire us to dare to be different ourselves.

 

Images: 1, 2, 3, Rep