Who is Jill Scott? A ‘Woman’ [ALBUM REVIEW + STREAM] by Victoria Shantrell @MsAnomalous @missjillscott

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This month marks 15 years since Jill Scott released her debut album, Who is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1. The highly acclaimed piece of work boasts classics like “Getting in the Way,” “He Loves Me,” “The Way, “A Long Walk,” not to mention nearly every other song on the album. Who is Jill Scott? will be touted as one of the best contemporary R&B albums for many more years to come. Scott followed up her debut album with, my personal favorite, Beautifully Human: Words and Sounds Vol. 2. But somewhere along the way, instead of producing dope albums, Jilly from Philly began giving us decent collections with a few good singles.

Scott’s much-anticipated new album, Woman, is admittedly not on par with the creativity, originality, and sultriness of her earlier works. Woman references many historical R&B styles as well as common contemporary textures and syncopations. In other words, most tracks on Woman lack distinctive melodies or an individual stamp—besides the use of spoken word, which has been a fixture on Scott’s albums from the beginning. However, the honesty and realness in the lyrical content of Woman speaks to many listeners. Woman is not a classic album but it isn’t a disappointment either. In 2000, Jill asked “Who is Jill Scott?” In 2015, she tells you straight up, she is: a mama, provider, shelter, lover, fool, fighter…a Woman.

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Tracks of Note

The opening track is a spoken word piece called “Wild Cookie.” The poem is about a woman who gives her, um, “cookie” too much control and, consequently, ends up in bad situations, such as “lonely pregnancies” and “embarrassment.” Scott acknowledges “Wild Cookie” is “a girl, not so unlike [herself]” and seems to believe that “[listening] to Jill sing” could be “a cure to the ‘Wild Cookie.’” The piece seems to suggest that listening to a woman can help young women understand their worth and keep their “wild cookies” in check.

“Prepared” is the first proper song on the album. On this track, Scott lets you know that she been putting in work to get prepared. She been mending old bridges, eating more greens, learning new recipes, letting old ideas go, making room to grow. Scott sings, “I been getting myself together for what’s coming to me.” Grown women will rock with this. This is cleaning house, hand waving, singing loud with the occasional “Yes, Lord” type of song. See, when you’re young, you’re not thinking about being prepared; you’re thinking about getting what you want, when you want it, how you want it; you think you’re ready. But a grown woman knows that if you’re not prepared, you a) might not attract what’s meant for you or b) won’t hold onto it if it comes your way. At 43, with a child and an ex-husband, Scott has probably learned this the hard way and is trying to tell “Wild Cookie” what’s up so that she doesn’t have to learn the same way. The track isn’t amazing but it’s relatable and acoustically pleasant. Unfortunately, you can’t help but think about Mary J. Blige’s classic “Deep Inside” (and if you’re a little older, Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets”).

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“Can’t Wait” is the smoothest and sexiest track on Woman. The song has a soulful 70s sound. You hear some hints of William DeVaughn’s “Be Thankful for What You’ve Got” and Willie Hutch’s “I Choose You.” The influences of Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Patti LaBelle, Teena Marie, and even contemporaries like Angie Stone and D’Angelo are all over this track. This song is likely to be popular on urban airwaves.

“Lighthouse” is one of the standout tracks because it’s one of the few catchy tunes on the album. Not only do we get a hook, we also get that popular synthesized percussion loop that we’ve come to (ironically) expect in what I can only describe as “make it clap” type of songs. The hook and sing-song rapping on the second chorus will make listeners think of Beyonce’s7/11.” This is not a great song, but it is the only song that I woke up singing in the morning.

You Don’t Know” is a bluesy, gospel sad love song. In an interview with Billboard, Scott said, “‘You Don’t Know’ is a really emotional song for me, because I don’t think people know what love is. People today are not willing to go through any level of fire. As soon as any fire comes, love just evaporates.” Jilly has always been willing to throw down for love. Fifteen years earlier on “Getting in the Way,” Scott sang about taking her rings off and needing some Vaseline to fight a girl over her man. Now, she is a grown woman and fights hard for love by crying hard, praying hard, and dealing with the lows that inevitably come.

No song is particularly bad on this album. Scott can sing, her production team is high quality, and one can relate to her on an experiential level (her lyrics could have been taken straight out of my journal). But there is something missing. For this to have been intended as such an emotional album based on its content, the emotion isn’t conveyed in the music as strongly as in her previous works. But maybe it’s an age thing. In a woman’s 20s and 30s, life sometimes seems more dramatic and intense. Perhaps when you get into your 40s, you hit a different kind of stride; maybe you develop perspective and calmness. Unfortunately, nothing makes for good R&B like volatile youthfulness.

Rating: B+

Best Songs: “Can’t Wait” | “Lighthouse”| “You Don’t Know”

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