Jill Scott: Woman

On Woman, Jill Scott is both reflective and bitter: not only with the world, but also herself.

Jill Scott


Label: Atlantic
US Release Date: 2015-07-24
UK Release Date: 2015-07-24

“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. No more bitterness; just acceptance. Acceptance of all the good. Acceptance of all the bad.

It’s a theme that paints Woman in the same way heartbreak embedded itself in The Light of the Sun. These 16 tracks shine a spotlight on the weird place between forgiveness and sadness. A phrase like “taking responsibility” comes to mind, but it doesn’t occur without a pain with which the singer clearly continues to wrestle. It makes for a set that’s equal parts hopeful yet defeated, optimistic yet cautious.  

Take the song from which that opening line comes. “Prepared” slow-jams its way through a list of get-well tips both inspiring and reflective. A proclamation of how much Scott wants to be sure she’s got herself right (just in case Mr. Right comes along), it’s one of the most adult songs the Philly songstress has recorded. “I been apologizing to some people / Some bridges I needed to mend", she sings and it’s a stark contrast from the “I’m not afraid of / What I gotta pay for” refrain that carried the most famous song off a record that came only two albums ago. 

Yet that humility only lasts so long. Single “Fool’s Gold” casts blame on an ex-lover who turned out to be anything but the man he sold himself as. Heavy on subdued hip-hop production from D.K. the Punisher, it marks a departure from some of the uptempo singles Scott has written in the past. She’s not just hurt here; she’s disgusted. Disgusted at herself for falling for his lies. Disgusted at him for turning out to be the cliche of all manly cliches. 

Which, in turn, would explain a track like the spoken-word opener “Wild Cookie”. Setting the tone for a contempt-fueled collection of songs, you know exactly how unforgiving she is when she offers up a line like this: “Now wild cookie choices lead to lonely pregnancy." It’s as though she’s writing from a place of hurt that she didn’t even previously know she had. “Cruisin” has the same weary eyes, this time toned down by way of the self-reflection noted earlier. She might not be ready for love yet, but she wants to be. 

Unless, of course, she comes across another one of those scoundrels who forced reluctance upon her in the first place. “Closure”, one of the five best songs Jill Scott has ever put on a record, is a ball of fun, a musical how-to kit of how to get the last laugh in lost love. Backed by retrofitted soul, a killer horn section and distorted vocals that surprisingly do her well, the track is a derecho storm of diss. No, there won’t be any breakfast waiting for anyone in the morning, and if that request to leave out the back door doesn’t sting, you’re missing the point. She’s rarely sounded more impassioned and emboldened; it’s a boisterous slice of perfection. 

Elsewhere, she puts on her mother cap for a series of loving-yet-spotty tunes. “Run Run Run” switches up her neo-soul flair for an approach that wouldn’t be out of place on a Janelle Monae album. With tambourines-a-many and showtune-esque horns, it marks a switch in direction that doesn’t necessarily enhance anything. All told, it feels like a weird play to capitalize on a Pharrell-obsessed, over-produced world of pop music. “Back Together” is much better, a doo-wop ballad that recalls Kelly Clarkson’s “The Trouble With Love Is”. The words take on an especially poignant tone when you view it in the light of it being about her son (she has said in the past that it is). It might not be what you’re used to from Jill Scott, but it’s the complete antithesis of “Run Run Run” in that the showbiz-y production works to her advantage. She’s never lacked soul, and this puts that reality front and center. 

Which, after all is said and done, is what makes Woman such an interesting listen: her conflicted soul. For the past couple records, Jill Scott has been borderline obsessed with establishing herself as a strong, battle-tested person. It’s part of her appeal. This time, though, she wrestles with doubt and anger and what it actually takes to establish a new beginning in one’s life. On her other records, achieving as much seemed as simple as accruing strength. Here, however, she’s confronted with the reality of how difficult pressing the reset button can be. There’s no posturing. It’s just humanity. And with humanity comes complications and clarity, hope and hopelessness, regrets and rebuilding. 

She once said that in order to love each other, you have to love yourselves first. These songs mark the first real step toward being on the other end of people-watching those couples she enjoys being around at this point in her life.






A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.


Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.