Jorja Smith is in two minds. On the best moment of her second album Falling or Flying, there’s a sense of bold experimentation; yet there are also points which feel more like a tired return to the safety of her debut.
Those two halves line up fairly accurately with sides A and B, a supposedly intentional choice to reflect the album’s title. Lead single and opener ‘Try Me’ reintroduces Smith while she’s flying, ruminating on change over serpentine rhythms, shotgun samples and shouts. Highlight ‘Little Things’ revives UK funky, putting an unstoppable groove front and centre, and ‘Feelings’ twists a label-mandated guest feature from J Hus into an afrobeats-inspired heater.
While the first half of the album is by far the most exciting, the more formulaic tracks from the weaker second side aren’t always exhausting. ‘Greatest Gift’ presents another treat of a feature from Lila Iké, and closer ‘What if my heart beats faster?’ finally sees her unleash her gorgeous voice beyond the album’s mostly restrained runs. Smith might be falling by this point, but she’s often landing in familiar territory. By comparison, even the damp ‘GO GO GO’s acoustic guitars and pop-punk drums are intriguing in their confused inclusion.
It’s hardly surprising that given the choice of falling or flying, the latter triumphs. Smith uses the album to confront the here and now, working with producer duo DAMEDAME* across all 16 tracks to make sense of mid-air. Occasionally, in freefall, she’ll grab onto something familiar to steady herself – but she truly succeeds when she leans into her creative freedom.
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