Jorja Smith – Project 11 EP review

The con­fi­dence that res­onates from Jor­ja Smith quick­ly leaves you defence­less. She’s an 18-year-old going on 28, singing about urban life, young love and society’s uncom­fort­able injustices.

Pro­pelled by the response to ‘Blue Lights’, a short tale of a young per­son walk­ing unwel­come streets, which gar­nered much acclaim for her at the start of the year, Smith has appar­ent­ly received plen­ty of offers from major labels, but has so far declined them all. She prefers do her own thing. The strength of her first EP, Project 11, is good rea­son for this ris­ing tal­ent to con­tin­ue being an inde­pen­dent woman.

Project 11 is a mar­vel­lous demon­stra­tion of Smith’s vocal and sto­ry­telling abil­i­ties. Vocal­ly, Smith, who has been train­ing her voice since high school, brings Ms Dyna­mite and Katy B to mind, and her love of reg­gae can be felt in the occa­sion­al Caribbean lilt to her phras­ing. The sul­try blues of break-up song ‘Some­thing in the Way’ makes it easy to pic­ture Smith deliv­er­ing jazzy pop akin to Amy Wine­house. With ‘So Lone­ly’ and ‘Car­ry Me Home’, the lat­ter a bewitch­ing duet with Mav­er­ick Saber, she has the con­trol of Emeli Sandé and a matu­ri­ty all of her own.

These tracks alone are the mark of a well-prac­ticed singer. But it’s ‘Imper­fect Cir­cle’, the final track, were Smith hits you with an eleventh hour mas­ter­piece of social­ly aware R&B. All five of the EP’s instru­men­tal beds were cre­at­ed by Lon­don pro­duc­er Char­lie. On ‘Imper­fect Cir­cle’ he winds up a per­co­lat­ing rhythm of bright, up-tem­po bass and per­cus­sion, and light piano keys, into a won­der­ful­ly mor­eish loop. Over this loop, Smith mus­es about the rep­e­ti­tion of world events, large and small, singing and rap­ping with spec­tac­u­lar flair.

‘Imper­fect Cir­cle’ alone is enough to keep Smith on heavy rota­tion for weeks. She’s had a ster­ling year – she’s per­formed at fes­ti­vals, released the ‘Where Did I Go?’, and been fea­tured on Caden­za’s sum­mer sin­gle, ‘Peo­ple’ – so it’s no sur­prise to see Smith has made it through to the BBC Sound of 2017 short­list. Charm­ing, con­fi­dent, and street smart: this young lady is poised to take 2017 by storm.

Project 11 EP is out now on FAMM Records.

[This review was first pub­lished on, Dec 2, 2016.]

Image: FAMM Records