Bussdown (feat. Shaybo)
If it wasn’t already clear from her soul-baring 2018 debut album Lost & Found, then perhaps her 2019 single “Be Honest” made it extra clear: Jorja Smith is, amongst others things, incredibly truthful where her music is concerned. “I was actually going to call this This Is Not My Second Album,” the singer-songwriter tells Apple Music of the EP Be Right Back. “Because these are songs that I love and I've written in the past two years, but I'm not yet ready to do 'the album.' When it’s time, I want to tour that album. And also: I know that there's another level that I can get to—musically, creatively, and all other aspects.” The British singer-songwriter has, of course, previous experience when it comes to non-album material making a splash. Her silky, soulful appearances on Drake’s More Life “playlist” are arguably what opened her up to a global audience, while a slew of post-Lost & Found collaborations with artists including Brent Faiyaz, Popcaan, and ENNY mean Rihanna-style anticipation for an eventual album two.
This eight-track set of evocative ballads—a self-described sonic “waiting room”—finds Smith continuing to thoughtfully navigate her way through a changing world. “Music's great,” she says. “It’s a little escape, and that's why I gave the project this title. I just wanted to dip in and dip out. But I want it to be a safe escape for my fans—for right now—because I know they miss me.”
Perhaps fittingly, then, it’s a striking and spare collection of moods and moments. “Bussdown” is gorgeous: a sultry hookup with UK rapper Shaybo that recalls Smith’s “Blue Lights” in potent storytelling. The bracingly direct “Addicted” glides over guitar licks that wouldn’t be out of place on In Rainbows, while “Gone” memorializes the tragic loss of a friend. “Anyone who listens will hear it differently to what it actually means in the first place,” she says of the track. “That’s what I love.” Elsewhere, “Home” feels like chancing on Smith at an open mic night with a diary entry, and “Weekend” brings us to a dreamlike, considered climax. Smith’s falsetto on this track, by the way, has never sounded so angelic.
The minimalist makeup of this music—notably trekking free of the soul and jazz borders of Lost & Found—hint at fresh, exciting levels to come. After being cued up as the UK’s next R&B/pop powerhouse, Be Right Back is the sound of an artist taking a breath before her next play. “I only dropped my first album three years ago,” she says. “And now I’ve been able to take in everything I've done in the last three years. I’m actually able to look at [plaques and records on] my walls like, ‘Oh my god, I did this.’ I appreciate everything, but I miss my fans, and I miss [doing] shows. The last year and this year has been so tough. I wanted to give them something.”