Rising British songstress Jorja Smith seemed to arrive fully formed with her Grammy-nominated, BRIT Award-winning 2018 debut album “Lost & Found,” a sultry R&B collection with flashes of Amy Winehouse and Sade. She was 21 at the time of the album’s release but had already hit more milestones than most artists ever reach, with a highly touted debut EP, guest spots with Drake and Kendrick Lamar and an arena tour opening for Bruno Mars.
Following such a strong debut is never easy, and Smith makes very clear that the new eight-song “Be Right Back” EP is definitely not her second album — in the press materials accompanying the release, she writes almost dismissively, “It’s called ‘Be Right Back’ because it’s just something I want my fans to have right now, this isn’t an album and these songs wouldn’t have made it. If I needed to make these songs, then someone needs to hear them too.”
Props for truth in advertising, because although “Be Right Back” contains several strong songs, it is indeed a half-step, with some tracks suggesting promising new directions while others sound like demos or unfinished ideas.
The EP leads with three of the strongest songs: “Addicted” is a solid single, with a drum n’ bass rhythm built around a spooky synth loop. It’s followed by the downcast “Gone” and the ambitious “Bussdown,” which has a skittering beat, haunting harmonies, and a guest verse from London rapper Shaybo. But the EP loses momentum after that, dashing through several songs that sound more like demos, before finishing strong with the moody “Weekend.” This dark and unusually structured song is the most innovative of the batch, with an almost jazzy melody that finds her flipping into her rarely used high register on the bridge.
As Smith says, “Be Right Back” is a stopgap — but if “Addicted” and “Weekend” are any indication of what’s coming next, we’ll be here waiting.