"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

'Covers the campus like the magnolias'
"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

Jorja Smith’s ‘Falling or Flying’ explores relationships and accountability

The British R&B singer releases her first studio album
Jorja Smith is flying into new territory on her latest LP (Courtesy of Spotify)

If you’re an avid music listener, you may welcome “New Music Fridays” with the same anticipation that I do, and if you’re an avid rap listener, you would know September as the release month of Drake’s long-awaited album, “For All the Dogs.” That is, until he very conveniently postponed the release date to Oct. 6. Lucky for me, there was another album for which I had been counting down the days — Jorja Smith’s “Falling or Flying.” 

A British R&B singer from Walsall, United Kingdom, Jorja Smith has been on the radar for R&B listeners for a while now. Her first studio album, “Lost and Found” earned her a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist, as well as a handful of Britpop awards. Since then, she has released multiple notable singles, ranging from a memorable and moody collaboration with rapper Stormzy to a light, rhythmic one with afrobeats icon Burna Boy. Her 2021 EP “Be Right Back” was similarly full of songs I found to be layered with heavy emotions and her ballad-like vocals. 

I associate songs with different places and times in my life, and Smith’s music has been the soundtrack to a lot of moments in my life. A few notable songs of hers have even become permanently meshed with certain emotions that are evoked immediately when I relisten to them. In fact, it was in the middle of my A-Level exam period just this past May when I rediscovered her music and began listening to “Lost and Found” on repeat whilst plowing through endless revision material. 

Alternatively, her single with “Stormzy” was the song I played most often when taking the metro around the city, and it now reminds me only of this journey. These songs of hers possess the ability to take me back to relive these precise moments, and I was looking forward to welcoming a whole new range of songs in this album with which I would associate my first couple of months in college. 

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Strangely, I have developed a ritualistic approach to listening to new albums. On the first listen, I go through the album from first to last track without paying much heed to the lyrics and just absorb the sounds, instruments and samples of each song. On the second listen, I go back and do the same but with my beloved geniuslyrics.com open in another tab and, poring over the lyrics, I decide which of these songs would make the cut into my playlist.

I was doing this with this album, but upon reaching this particular song, I broke my own rules and pulled up geniuslyrics on first listen. “Backwards” started off with a beat to which I immediately started nodding my head, then Smith’s breathy, satin-like vocals entered, and I already knew it would be one of my favorites on the album. 

In some songs, the words spill out, and it’s as if the lyrics were made for you to be listened to — and this was one of those songs. “It hurts me if I hurt you / So I hurt you so you hate me / But you won’t leave, I can’t get out.” I heard that, immediately texted my best friend urging her to listen and pressed replay before the song even finished. 

The album as a whole is an exploration of multiple subgenres or side quests into other emotions. The titular track, “Falling or flying,” defines what this phrase means to Smith and how she never knows within which of the two motions she is caught. There is a great deal of introspection throughout this album with Smith exploring herself and how she handles romantic relationships that comes across as a journey of accountability and self-checking. Different from most songs on this project, “Feelings” — featuring fellow British star J Hus — is less of a monologue than a conversation. J Hus compliments Smith’s vocals on this song, adding his characteristic Afroswing touch.

Overall, the album ended up matching my high expectations and will be listened to frequently over the next month — hopefully this review encourages you to do the same.

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