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Jorja Smith is a British teen with the star power to turn the pop world on its head. At just 20, Smith rose to fame off the strength of not one but two inclusions on Drake’s last full-length release, More Life, back in 2017. As with most people who benefit from Drizzy’s signature Midas touch, Smith had been quietly grinding away for several years before he showed up, but after he turned his spotlight on her, Smith’s fate was sealed. She was going to be a star.
Of course, even without Drake’s co-sign, Smith was probably destined for stardom either way. For one thing, the biracial singer-songwriter from Walsall, West Midlands (read: the middle of nowhere England) is so astonishingly pretty that during her recent interview with Beats 1 the journalist was prompted to bring up Janet Mock’s popularization of the term “pretty privilege.” “Some of my followers don’t even know I’m a singer,” Smith admitted — but that’s where those fans are really missing out.
Because aside from being incredibly good-looking, Smith is in possession of one of those flawless, impossibly rich and soulful voices that seems to have no limits, no pitch trouble, no volume issues. Across her debut, Lost & Found Jorja’s floats in and out, deep and rumbling like the sea, always containing more than you think it might, but just as powerful when spread thin, sweeping up against the edges of the song, then pulling back.
Prior to her appearances on More Life in 2015, Smith had already begun to attract attention for her enormous voice. As a child, her father — a musician himself — encouraged her to take piano lessons, and she eventually earned a music scholarship to take voice lessons and learn the oboe.
In true millennial fashion, her first big break came from a cover uploaded to Youtube. Accompanied by a sole acoustic guitar, Jorja covered Alex Clare’s “Too Close” for a talent show (check). This video somehow made its way to her current manager, who began traveling from London to Walsall to meet with Jorja and her father, and bring her to London for writing sessions.
After traveling between the two while finishing school, Jorja made the jump and moved to London straight out of high school, where she got a job at a local Starbucks and would write furiously during her free time. This led to the release of her initial single “Blue Lights” — a song that samples and reinterprets Dizzee Rascal’s “Sirens” for a story confronting racial bias in law enforcement — in January of 2016.