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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

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Liner Notes: Jorja Smith refreshes R&B in pensive sophomore album ‘Falling or Flying’

Illustration by Yash Markendey
Jorja Smith released her album “falling or flying” Friday.

English singer-songwriter Jorja Smith was “Lost & Found” in her 2018 debut. In her second album, released Friday, she’s still wondering if she’s “falling or flying.”

From her first track “Try Me,” Smith thematically explores past heartbreak, healing and self-discovery in her lyrics, singing “Might hurt, but I won’t hide / I know myself, I know I wasn’t / The only one that has been through what I have today.” 

With an aching voice reminiscent of Lauryn Hill or Amy Winehouse, even her hopeful messages have an undertone of sorrow. This emotional current is supported by strong beats and rhythmic guitar at the forefront of each song, likely the input of producer duo Damedame, comprised of Edith Nelson and Barbara Boko-Hyouyhat. 

Smith refuses to submit to the new wave of disco popularized by Doja Cat and Dua Lipa, instead going back to her roots with an LP in shades of R&B, rap, pop, neo-soul and UK house. 

Smith released the music video for title track and fourth single, “Falling or Flying,” on Aug. 30, along with the complete track list. Bare-bones visuals show Smith singing to the camera, metallic makeup illuminated by unique light sources in dark settings, conceptually emphasizing both solitude and independence. 

In this vein, the lyrics “I could be fallin’ or flyin’ / I wouldn’t know the difference” imply the track — and the album — is an internal dialogue about her specific emotions, not a ballad to generic passion. 

The LP explores Smith’s experiences with love more than the concept of love itself, with relationships at the center of the album.

She creates a fusion of R&B and rave music in “Little Things,” a song about flirting with a crush at a party. The music video features a cameo by rapper Headie One and intercuts video of a couple dancing together with on-the-street style interviews answering the question, “What do you find attractive in other people?,” a nod to the album’s theme of reflection.

In “Greatest Gift (feat. Lila Iké),”she slows it down to express her gratitude for a lover with “little wings,” singing “I promise to make sure you’ll never fall far from your grace,” incorporating the album’s namesake motifs. 

Other tracks explore severed romantic connections. “GO GO GO” is her farewell to someone who liked to “kiss and tell,” whom she couldn’t get to know on a deeper level. She regrets a relationship she now realizes was bad for her in “Broken is the Man,” but comments on the personal growth that can come from heartache in “Backwards.”

After Smith’s  2019 Grammy nomination for Best New Artist, the 26-year-old appears to have found a more mature tone, neither rejoicing for nor mourning her early twenties but taking deep melodic dives into moments in time.

While “falling or flying” runs a gambit of emotions, perhaps that’s the point; in an interview with BET about the album, Smith said, “I want you to feel like you can dance or you can cry or you can laugh or think or feel. That’s all I ever want.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @jillian_moore7

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