The most enjoyable thing about Jill Scott’s evolution is watching her become increasingly comfortable showing how much she revels in being a beautiful woman.
I didn’t really care for her first studio album and much of her second – too much coffeehouse pretension and abstraction in the lyrics for my tastes – because I felt on those early records that she was writing songs that she thought fit the image of her (mother soul goddess) rather than songs that let us connect with the woman behind the image. And that wasn’t all that interesting to me. To have all that voice and just sing about generic sentiment seemed a waste.
So, of course, I hung onto those rare glimpses of Jill showing us just a little bit more. Like “Gimme” which was our first glimpse of Jill in her flirty, sexy womanness.
Or “Bedda at Home,” which stands out from the rest of an album that was off-putting in its depiction of a black woman’s almost self-destructive allegiance to patriarchy* because the song – and Jill’s dynamite lead vocal – conveys as much about sexual ecstasy as it does about the greatness of her man.
But it was her third album that I felt fulfilled all the promise that we only saw in pieces before. For the first time, a Jill Scott album communicated explicitly what was really going on with Jill Scott, the woman – she was upset about the breakup of her marriage, but she was also really effing horny.
So is it any surprise that the best moment on Jill’s latest album – a strange, weirdly fascinating, freewheeling mess of an album – is a beautiful jazz joint where she invites women to embrace full-throatedly the power of their sexuality?
I don’t think we can underestimate the power here. “Serious” full-figured soul women aren’t supposed to think about, talk about, sing about sex, let alone how much they enjoy it and the power they find in it**.
But Jill seems undeterred, giving interviews about how she was preoccupied wit sex and about how complicated her own reaction to her lyrics can be that suggest she will continue to challenge that assumption.
Looking forward to what’s next.
*Though in hindsight, one could read that second album as last ditch effort to save what ended up being a dying relationship. Doesn’t make it more enjoyable necessarily but does make it feel a bit more like its about Jill than it seems at first blush.
**I think the relative panning that her third album enjoyed bears this out.