Gotta love those times that you click on a random video on your YouTube homepage and are introduced to a new song that just blows your mind.
The debut release by English singer/songwriter Jorja Smith, Blue Lights, was released onto Soundcloud in January 2016 when the artist was eighteen years old. The song would go on to be nominated for the Best Song award at the 2016 MOBO Awards and begin to develop a hype around the young English songwriter.
Blue Lights is a mind blowing investigation into the feelings and fears that certain demographics have for police and law enforcement in modern times. Smith has said in interviews that while researching the relationship between early grime music and the police, she asked youths in her community about their sentiments towards law enforcement, the answers were almost exclusively negative but none of the people asked could articulate exactly why they felt how did.
Across the track, Smith investigates the idea of living with a guilty conscience even though you have nothing to actually be guilty about but despite that every siren and every police car bring with them a sense of dread and apprehension.
“You got blood on your hands but you don’t know where it’s from…”
Some of the imagery created by the Smith is wonderfully crafted as we are drawn into the world of the song, a world that is said to be inspired by the world that the songwriter grew up in. Smith expertly constructs the idea and feeling of fearing for your safety even though there is no obvious threat to them, a thought that occupies the mind continuously.
“Gun crime into your right ear
Drugs and violence into your left
Default white headphones flooding the auditory
Subconscious waves you accept”
The imagery of the flashing blue lights throughout is incredibly powerful, as Smith tries to put a positive spin on the idea of police sirens and the accompanying flashing lights as the protagonist tries to allay their fears.
“I wanna turn those blue lights into strobe lights
Not blue flashing lights, maybe fairy lights”
The song begins with a sense of hope as Smith is confident in the knowledge that she has done nothing wrong even though the dread and uncertainty remains present in her mind, but near the end of the track the situation is very different. Based on the personal experiences of Smith when she herself discovered a weapon in the bag of a friend, the protagonist in the song is asked to mind a weapon for a friend and suddenly the irrational fears of earlier seem a lot more real. The protagonist now fears that their friend actually did something that they should be worried about, and by passing the weapon on the guilt has also been passed on.
“Hands you the tool as you question your friendship
How’s man like you gonna make me a convict?
Level of a felon when I’ve done nothing wrong”
With this verse, the whole sentiment of the song changes and suddenly those blue lights feel like a lot more of a real threat. There is no more efforts to disguise the lights as something more positive, they are now police sirens and their target is clear.
” You better run when you hear the sirens coming
‘Cause they will be coming for you”
Blue Lights is a stunning commentary on the experiences that elements of society have with law enforcement and also at how quickly circumstances can change for the worst. Captivating.