Published May 27, 2021
By CASSIE GORMAN
Three years after the launch of her debut album, English singer-songwriter Jorja Smith has returned with “Be Right Back,” composed of eight emotional and dynamic songs cut from her upcoming album, and she shines with consistently good lyrics, vocals and storytelling, but falls short with some predictable songwriting.
The album opens with “Addicted,” a pleading, R&B-influenced track taking the listener through the pain of a one-sided relationship. In this track, the beauty is truly in the simplicity of the lyrics and the melody sung beautifully over the rolling percussion that moves the listener forward. It is pretty, but doesn’t necessarily stand out from the rest, making it that one song in your playlist you always skip but fall in love with when you accidentally listen to it again.
Overall, Smith shines in two areas: her clean, effortless vocals and her storytelling. In “Home,” her incredible vocal control is featured in her clean riffs and hums, as she takes listeners on a journey of uncertainty and a desire to escape. Almost every song in the album features a part where Smith harmonizes with herself, as several tracks of her singing are played together, creating a mesmerizing and unforgettable surprise hidden between the more predictable verses.
The best track is undoubtedly “Time,” the most moving and simple song of the bunch. With a mellow guitar backing accompanied by humming and light percussion, this song has incredible emotional build, and with such simple instrumental backing, it places Smith’s voice front and center where it belongs. With some unexpected twists and turns, it is refreshingly unpredictable and exciting, a standout in this album.
Other highpoints include “Gone.” With a simple repetitive beat rolling under an effortlessly sung melody, this track is a solid standout with not a single wasted verse. Similarly, “Digging” is an excellent surprise, with echoing shouts in the background accompanied by an incredible drum beat. “Weekend” is a stellar closing song, with incredible instrumental backing heavy on drums and Smith’s expectedly excellent vocals, constantly keeping listeners on the edge of their seats.
Predictability proves to be Smith’s subtle enemy in this album. Some repetition makes a few songs fall just short of great, as exemplified through “Burn,” a truly beautiful song about burnout that would be great if given the same emotional build and motion as “Home.” “Bussdown (feat. Shaybo)” is the only song with a featured artist, who raps between Smith’s vocals. Though well-written with a catchy chorus, it unfortunately opens stronger than it closes, leaving more to be desired. But this criticism is incredibly picky, as even the worst songs in this album are pretty solid.
Building up anticipation for Smith’s next release, “Be Right Back” is a solid lineup of beautiful and well-written tracks highlighting Smith’s otherworldly vocals and songwriting ability, but also showcasing her tendency as a songwriter to leave out the proper momentum and build. If these weren’t good enough to make the cut for her upcoming album, then her next album will be incredible, given Smith has a few more tricks up her sleeve.