jorja smith @ edinburgh liquid rooms
By Annabel McLean
An eclectic crowd gathers in this cosy corner of Edinburgh’s Grassmarket, jostling for the perfect spot as they eagerly await the arrival of tonight’s acts. The stage is bathed in a soft pink light as the lamps glow from beneath their shades. This evening is a cause for celebration; not only is Jorja Smith’s opening night a sell-out show, today also marks the centenary of women’s suffrage. Jorja’s recognition of this momentous occasion is reflected in her subtle selection of Beautiful Little Fools as the opening track, just as its release in March carefully coincided with International Women’s Day. Inspired by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s canonical novel The Great Gatsby, and taking its title from Daisy Buchanan’s famous line, “I hope she’ll be a fool – that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool”, the song serves as a poignant reminder of the pressures girls are facing in modern society. Her words gently encourage young women to love themselves, ignoring the designs of the “Hollywood perception”. Yet whilst she laments a lack of confidence amongst many, Jorja herself radiates a self-assurance that defies her twenty years of age. She follows with the bittersweet Where Did I Go?, demonstrating a rare sensitivity and determination.
The night’s set is a colourful exhibition of songs old and new, a programme peppered with enchanting unreleased music that leaves an enamoured audience awestruck. The refrain “‘cause you’re never coming back down / You belong to the stars in the clouds” in Goodbyes is a chillingly lucid and powerful consideration of loss, beautiful in its simplicity. In Don’t Watch Me Cry, Jorja pauses, asking with a shy smile, “why is it so quiet?”, as the spectators gaze in stunned silence. Her rendition of Frank Ocean’s Lost continues to captivate whilst Blue Lights offers a moving commentary on street violence and police oppression and Lifeboats – produced by Tom Misch – reveals frustrations over the current state of governmental affairs. These political observations adding an alternative dimension to her position as a young musician, giving her performance a striking gravitas.
"It is Jorja’s authenticity that lies at the heart of her success. Her words are wise and introspective; her music is resonant and moving, relevant but also timeless."
Jorja Smith is effortless; her silken vocals fill the room as if made from liquid light, gliding over the audience with ease and grace. Teenage Fantasy has word-perfect fans singing along exuberantly, and Imperfect Circle concludes with calls for an encore. After a brief moment backstage, Jorja returns for the grand finale, beginning with the empowering Wandering Romance and moving seamlessly into Let Me Down, her latest release featuring Stormzy. Instead of a guest appearance from the famous grime artist, Jorja continues to reveal her musical prowess by offering another verse filled with smokey notes. Her final song, On My Mind, exposes her artistic versatility as she transitions from ballad to dance-track in the space of one breath.
She has been compared with Amy Winehouse and likened to a young Rihanna, her voice containing elements of their grit and soul. Yet, whilst this is high praise indeed, it is Jorja’s authenticity that lies at the heart of her success. Her words are wise and introspective; her music is resonant and moving, relevant but also timeless. As the winner of this year’s Brits Critics’ Choice Award, Jorja Smith is set to reach dazzling heights, and so we wait with great anticipation to find out where it is that this rising star will go next.