The Walsall soul singer beat finalists Mabel and Stefflon Don.
The prize, which recognises “the future stars of British recording talent”, has previously been a bellwether of future success with the likes of Adele (2008), Emeli Sandé (2012) and Sam Smith (2014) all winning. Last year, Rag’n’Bone Man took home the prize, and his album Human debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart and he became the fastest-selling debut by a male artist during the 2010s.
Last week Jorja Smith, Mabel and Stefflon Don came out on top of a poll of over 100 artists, chosen by an expert team which included music editors of national newspapers, music and lifestyle magazines, music websites and heads of music at major radio and music TV stations. Choosing between the three finalists was tough; Birmingham rapper Stefflon Don and Swedish soul singer Mabel have both had Top 10 hits with their track ‘Hurtin’ Me’ and ‘Finders Keepers’, respectively.
In the end Jorja Smith was a worthy winner. She has already been featured on two Drake tracks, and scored a club hit with ‘On My Mind’, a collaboration with garage producer Preditah. Alongside this, her solo singles ‘Beautiful Little Fools’ and ‘Where Did I Go?’ have all earned millions of streams, while ‘Teenage Fantasy’ and ‘On My Mind’ were both named “Hottest Record In The World” by BBC Radio 1’s Annie Mac. Brits Chairman Jason Iley, said Smith had “a huge future ahead of her”.
The 20 year old, who took fourth place on the BBC Sound of 2017, was working in a Starbucks less than two years ago when she posted her first single, ‘Blue Light’s, on SoundCloud. A soulful, semi-autobiographical look at her childhood in the West Midlands it quickly earned shout-outs from Stormzy, Skrillex and Drake – who put her on his More Life mixtape earlier this year. The Canadian R&B star also invited Smith on stage during his concerts at London’s O2 arena and the Barclays Center in Birmingham.
The Critics’ Choice prize is the first accolade to be announced before the official Brit Awards ceremony, which will take place at London’s O2 Arena on 21 February, 2018. It was the first all-female shortlist, and Smith ends a run of five years of solo male winners. Equally progressive was the fact that after the Mercury Prize was dominated by London based artists, none of those shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice came from the capital. This is a new artist, and possibly a new age, for music.
We want to congratulate Jorja Smith and all those shortlisted, and here’s to an equally successful 2018!