Jorja Smith, who was once considered an underdog, has become an it-girl of the modern music scene. Having been likened to Amy Winehouse, Lauryn Hill and Rihanna, her latest album Lost and Found saw her shoot to fame as one of R&B’s biggest new artists. There’s something innately political about Jorja and her music. She is a young, English, down-to-earth woman whose voice and lyricism resonates with the challenges and the importance of identity. Jorja sings mostly about love, and it is hard not to love her. This is someone to stand at the front for.
Already inside the venue, the crowd is young and buzzing with anticipation. On Wednesdays, this huge two-story venue holds the club-night Crisis, the UK’s biggest weekly student night. This is quite a different scene. Perhaps because it’s a Sunday night?
Amina Rose from South London, touring with her album London Burning, warmed up the crowd. Her music is grounded in reggae and hip-hop, with a poppy, electronic twist. One of her favourites to perform, ‘Paradise’, is the most well received by the exponentially amassing viewers. Rose is petite with a huge, excited smile. She is like Smith’s younger sister, who is just happy to be at the party.
The audience is stood wall-to-wall, and as Smith appears on stage a warm, adoring calls arise from all around. Sparkling subtly with the lights behind her, she wears a quiet smile, beginning her eponymous track ‘Lost and Found’. One of the things that is so astonishing about Smith is the effortlessness with which she releases her bewitching melodies. Members of the crowd became lost in the music and recited every word.
Despite this, there is a prevailing sense of immediacy. On the song that earned her her fame, ‘Blue Lights’, she stops singing and let the crowd take the mic. Her music reflects the feelings of losing and finding a sense of identity that is common to the process of growing up. Later into the evening, Jorja performs Rihanna’s ‘Man Down’, a personal influence of hers. She is pitch-perfect and picturesque. It feels reductive but impossible not to remark on Jorja’s striking beauty. A beauty that stems perhaps from an obvious kindness within. With a nod of recognition and appreciation to her band and her support Mina Rose, Smith finishes with ‘On My Mind’. As the people pour out I don’t doubt this song is on their minds, as it is on still mine.
Image: Anton Mak