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Jorja Smith Places a Beat Behind Blended Feelings on ‘Falling or Flying’

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Though Smith established herself as a ballad singer with songs like “Addicted” from her 2021 EP, “Be Proper Again,” she has at all times been canny about rhythm. With “Falling or Flying,” she raises the stress in her songs by pushing the beat upfront, generally shifting it into double time. Smith isn’t becoming a member of the disco and home revival. Quite the opposite: She and her producers — particularly Damedame, the partnership of Edith Nelson and Barbara Boko-Hyouyhat — give you un-nostalgic beats. And whereas the tracks might be glossy, they attempt to make Smith sound uncovered, not shiny.

All through the album, the insistent physicality of rhythm hints on the jitters that somebody hides whereas placing on a courageous face. “Try Me” opens the album with a Bo Diddley beat laced at first with finger-cymbal pings and later with a pistol-cocking sound, as Smith confronts naysayers and previous wounds. “I don’t should let you know what I’ve modified,” she sings.

The songs on “Falling or Flying” are about primal wants: for love, for intercourse, for consolation, for understanding, for independence. Because the rhythms push ahead, Smith’s voice ponders and hesitates, working by means of doubts after which taking possibilities, bodily and emotional.

In “Little Things,” a hopping bass line and brisk Latin percussion drive a daring come-on — “Received’t you include me and spend the evening?” — whereas dissonant, syncopated piano chords trace at suppressed misgivings. The title track, “Falling or Flying,” is much more ambivalent a couple of new infatuation; with percussion and rhythm guitar ricocheting left and proper, Smith urges, “Present me you need me.” Then she wonders, “Who else may get me to fall from these heights?”

Many of the album is full of goodbyes, not connections. “Go Go Go,” with a syncopated guitar backbeat and slamming drums paying homage to the Police, summarily jettisons a lover who wouldn’t maintain issues to himself. In “Damaged Is the Man,” Smith seems again on a relationship she now realizes was poisonous: “Are you able to consider I put myself by means of that every one/Simply to comprehend you imply nothing to me,” she sings, over a sluggish, thudding beat; she received’t let it drag her down.