June 11, 2018 | Sidney Madden — It’s a good thing the weather was gloomy the day Jorja Smith rolled in for her Tiny Desk concert. Even though the skies threatened rain and thunder, the overcast light lingering in our dimmed office space allowed the teardrop pendant lights, hung from the ceiling by her lighting team, to cast the desk in a warm, honey-hued glow. And while the nimble guitar strings and double-time drums of her supporting band was enough to dizzy the focus in the room, it was the U.K. singer’s slow, silky cadence that anchored the performance in tranquility.
As Smith worked her way up the scales to each high note in “On My Mind” (a track usually sung over a reverberated garage beat) and “Teenage Fantasy” (a ballad to love lost written when she was 16), there wasn’t an ounce of pressure evident in her face or body language. When she closed her eyes to deliver the rap verse of “Blue Lights,” the anti-injustice song that first positioned her as a SoundCloud darling in 2016, a hush fell over the room in awe of her precision.
Though Smith’s boldface collaborations to date range from Drake to Kali Uchis, her debut album Lost & Found is free of featured acts. Much like this Tiny Desk performance, those 12 tracks show off Smith’s talent in a minimalist way — musing about life and love with the ambiguity and sense of agency that only comes with newfound freedom.
After she finished, but before retreating to the comfort of Supreme sweats, Smith and her band bestowed the Tiny Desk with a blue lava lamp signed by every member. Keep an eye out for that Easter egg in future episodes.
“On My Mind”
Jorja Smith, Femi Koleoso, Benjamin Totten, Mutale Chashi, Amane Suganami
Producers: Sidney Madden, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Beck Harlan, Bronson Arcuri; Lighting: Tyler C. Trofatter; Production Assistant: Bobby Carter; Photo: Eslah Attar/NPR.