There have been times when the Grammy's "Best New Artist" category has been a little questionable, with artists who have been around for years only just finding their way onto the nominations slate or wins that have not stood the test of time. (I'm looking at you Milli Vanilli.) But sometimes, the Grammys do nail it. This year the list includes some choice nominees including Chloe X Halle, Bebe Rexha, Dua Lipa, and Jorja Smith. The first three American audiences will recognize, but who is Jorja Smith? She's a singer-songwriter from the United Kingdom, and her voice is going to seduce you.
Born in the West Midlands, Smith is the daughter of a former musician and a jewelry designer. According to biography, she started playing piano at age eight and was first discovered at the age of 15 when she began uploading videos of herself singing to YouTube. Her first EP, Project 11, came out in 2016, but it wasn't until she guest starred on Drake's album More Life a year later she began making waves.
You know the Drake track "Jorja Interlude"? It's named for her. She's also the female vocalist on "Get It Together." This lead to her first full-length studio album, Lost & Found, which came out last summer.
Lost & Found only made it just inside the Top 50 here in the U.S., but in the U.K., the album has been a significant hit, with it reaching the Top 3 on the U.K. pop charts and Number 1 on the UK R&B list. Her track "Blue Lights" was nominated for and won Best Urban Video on the UK Music Video Awards, and lead to her winning the Critic's Choice Award at the BRIT Awards last year. Now the U.S. is catching on, with nominations at last fall's Soul Train Awards, this year's Grammy for Best New Artist and even a Mercury Prize.
Jorja is a bit of a dark horse in this year's Grammy race because she's doing it all on her own, with no major label behind her. Though she told Rolling Stone she considered auditioning for The X-Factor (which is a real career maker over there the way American Idol used to be over here), Jorja decided she wanted to stick to her own material and control her own destiny. Both her EP and Lost & Found are released on FAMM, her own label. She works with Platoon, a “platform for fearless creatives” invented two years ago by a former Apple consultant, which is responsible for getting her on Apple Music and Spotify.
Her hit singles have come from her listening to her instincts. In a profile in The Guardian, she revealed her song "Blue Lights" came from a class project where she realized how few kids her age of color trusted the police. It may be her biggest single so far, but she's not worried if people haven't heard of it.
Did Amy Winehouse have a hit single from Frank? I love Frank, but people didn’t really pay attention to her until Back to Black. So no, I haven’t had a hit single. I personally am not bothered about that.
Smith's profile is about to be massively raised by the Grammys, and perhaps the hit single will come soon. The 61st Annual Grammys Awards air on Sunday, Feb. 10, at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.