Music

Jill Scott: Woman

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


Jill Scott

Woman

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

“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.

7
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

IYEARA Heighten the Tension on Remix of Mark Lanegan's "Playing Nero" (premiere)

Britsh trio IYEARA offer the first taste of a forthcoming reworking of Mark Lanegan's Somebody's Knocking with a remix of "Playing Nero".

Music

Pottery Take Us Deep Into the Funky and Absurd on 'Welcome to Bobby's Motel'

With Welcome to Bobby's Motel, Pottery have crafted songs to cleanse your musical pallet and keep you firmly on the tips of your toes.

Music

Counterbalance 23: Bob Dylan - 'Blood on the Tracks'

Bob Dylan makes his third appearance on the Acclaimed Music list with his 1975 album, Blood on the Tracks. Counterbalance’s Eric Klinger and Jason Mendelsohn are planting their stories in the press.

Music

Luke Cissell Creates Dreamy, Electronic Soundscapes on the Eclectic 'Nightside'

Nightside, the new album from composer and multi-instrumentalist Luke Cissell, is largely synthetic and electronic but contains a great deal of warmth and melody.

Music

Bibio Discusses 'Sleep on the Wing' and Why His Dreams Are of the Countryside

"I think even if I lived in the heart of Tokyo, I'd still make music that reminds people of the countryside because it's where my dreams often take me," says Bibio (aka Stephen Wilkinson) of his music and his new rustic EP.

Reading Pandemics

Pandemic, Hope, Defiance, and Protest in 'Romeo and Juliet'

Shakespeare's well known romantic tale Romeo and Juliet, written during a pandemic, has a surprisingly hopeful message about defiance and protest.

Film

A Family Visit Turns to Guerrilla Warfare in 'The Truth'

Catherine Deneuve plays an imperious but fading actress who can't stop being cruel to the people around her in Hirokazu Koreeda's secrets- and betrayal-packed melodrama, The Truth.

Music

The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.

Books

90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.

Music

Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

'Avengers: Endgame' Faces the Other Side of Loss

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our pandemic grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.

Music

Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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