A lot can happen in a year or two, but for British newcomer Jorja Smith - aka the winner of the Brits Critics' Choice Award 2018 - the last 12 months have probably felt like a lifetime. Since putting herself on the map with the release of her track, Blue Lights, in early 2016, Smith has ridden the wave of her success with the ease of a seasoned musician, despite only turning 20 a few months ago.
Born and raised in Walsall, an industrial city in the West Midlands, the artist started out by posting grainy videos of her and a friend performing covers of old Katy B tracks on YouTube. Although still in the awkward grips of adolescence (school uniform and all), it’s clear that Smith’s style - a delicate blend of smoking, R&B-inflected soul - is wholly innate. Like the voice of one her biggest influencers, Amy Winehouse, Smith has a tone that can't be imitated without doing it an injustice, for it relies on the intangible elements that make an artist special.
After the positive reception of Blue Lights - which captured the attention of both Dizzee Rascal and Stormzy - Smith released A Prince, a contemporary take on Henry Purcell’s A Prince of Glorious Race Descended, that also features English-Irish rapper, Maverick Sabre.
However, although already making some serious moves on her own terms, it wasn’t until the release of Where Did I Go?, that Smith truly exploded onto the scene. The song, a heartfelt-but-unaffected track about letting go of past love, was dubbed by Drake as his “favourite track of the moment” in an article featured in Entertainment Weekly, and Smith was consequently skyrocketed to the ranks of the Champagne Papi, who at the time was beginning his somewhat embarrassing obsession with the UK grime scene.
Remember that track, Get It Together, from Drake’s More Life mixtape? The one that’s arguably the best song on there? Yeah, that was Jorja Smith, and Drake even brought her to a few of his 2017 tour dates as a thank you.
With out without Drake’s support however, it seems like the world can’t get enough of Jorja Smith. She makes music that has the ability to appeal to everyone without compromising the elements that make her unique; there are notes of jazz and neo-soul, but also an undercut of UK garage and a lingering thread of old-school R&B.
With such an alluring sound, it’s no surprise that Smith has been selected for shortlists ranging from the MOBOS, to the BBC’s Sound of 2017. Sony Music’s CEO, Jason Iley, has projected the artist to have a “huge future ahead of her”, and we don’t doubt that for a second. You’ll be seeing even more of Jorja Smith in 2018.