It's become apparent that the Jill Scott of old isn't coming back anytime soon, and that isn't a bad thing. The breezy, wildly optimistic paragon of positivity we were introduced to back in the early 2000s, during which she enjoyed a solid run on the vanguard of new millennium soul is gone. Today's Jill Scott has suffered love, motherhood and breakup; she muses that her life changes and experience are reflected in the music she creates moving forward.
“I used to be stuck / How about you?” asks Jill Scott at the beginning of Say Thank You, before a fuzz guitar that echoes Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain kicks in. Woman is Scott’s first album since 2011’s The Light of the Sun, and her first for Atlantic. Assisted by a team of producers including long-time collaborator André Harris, it doesn’t sound as though she’s stuck.
Jill Scott's voice is familiar like hair being braided on a stoop, like a fire hydrant pouring out into the street, like a slow summer. Woman, her fifth studio album, is slow in the way that the familiar is slow: we already know what to expect. With Scott, it's mom-and-pop, all-you-can-eat R&B; sexy fun for grown folk over the age of 40, like speed dating at church.
“You know, I been enjoying people who love each other.” It’s one of the most touching lines Jill Scott has ever penned. It’s also a line that doesn’t come without its share of hard lessons learned through the years. Instead of being angry or resentful, like on 2007’s “Hate on Me” or 2011’s “Quick” and “All Cried Out Redux”, that’s the line of a woman who is still weathering a storm through which she can finally see sunlight somewhere, even if it’s miles away.
After the 2011 album The Light of the Sun, Jill Scott advanced her acting career with roles in Steel Magnolias, Baggage Claim, and With This Ring. She also transferred her Blues Babe label from Warner Bros. to Atlantic and worked on her fifth proper studio album. A month ahead of its release, just after the second single reached the public, Hidden Beach just happened to issue Golden Moments, a compilation of highlights from Scott's "Words and Sounds" era.
Jill Scott’s seductive debut Who Is Jill Scott? intimated that Erykah Badu had a rival for the title of queen of cosmic soul. Fifteen years and four albums later, Scott is a far more conventional artist, the understated beauty of her first LP replaced by largely formulaic Philly soul on which she hollers and chastises former beaux. There’s no doubting the quality of her voice – she is blessed with both power and restraint – but Woman only shines on the moodier songs when Scott lingers over every syllable and puts the vocal acrobatics on hold.
We devour music at such a feverish pace that, more and more, great collections of songs fall through the cracks. Over the summer, we caught up with another punk band who’s almost as ambitious as Titus Andronicus, a critically and commercially approved R&B singer who somehow isn’t in the ….