Jill Scott Brings The Real Thing
by Lili Ramirez
The first time I listened to Jill Scott’s second studio album, Beautifully Human, Words & Sounds, Vol. 2, I felt a wave of emotion so fierce it nearly toppled me over. I’ll be honest – I cried myself a river that day. Jill was rejoicing about love and I grieved the loss of the love I had cherished, which had recently fallen to shambles. Beautifully Human was clearly Jill’s love album at the time.
You could hear it in her honey- melon voice: joy, passion and promise were aglow. I had to bury that album deep and couldn’t listen to it for a long time. But once I healed and emerged stronger, myself more beautifully human, I came back to that album and cranked up the volume, ready to sing about love again at the top of my lungs. That’s one of the amazing things about humans: the resilience of our hearts. We love, at times, we lose… but then one day, it’s as if a flame finds its way back inside to fire the embers of our hearts and there we are – ready to love again. Regardless, Jill’s lyrics resonate so deep within us, they shake us up and give us the feeling that we know her: maybe she’s our sister, or best friend, mother, daughter, our personal prophetess, or maybe our favorite poetess…a glowing beacon to our universal experience.
The Real Thing, Words & Sounds, Vol. 3, Jill’s latest studio project re- leased in late September, is a continuing exploration of the question and title to her ground-breaking 2000 album, “Who is Jill Scott?” One facet of that answer is, a woman who ce- lebrates who she is and doesn’t allow the judgment or criticism of others to dim her shining spirit. “Hate on Me”, for example, is Jill’s poignant response to all “haters”, whether they be relatives or strangers.
In part, the song’s lyrics were provoked by a website she found late one night where hundreds of strangers were criticizing and “hating on her.” Jill’s response? To continue walking her own path with her head up high…without making any apologies for who she is. No song says this better than the album’s title track, “The Real Thing”. This is the anthem of the album, similar to what “Golden” was to Beautifully Human, except here, Jill crosses over into a rock-n-roll goddess. She’s fierce, but not angry; strong but not belligerent; confident but not ultra-cocky. Notice I don’t rule out cocky entirely. Sure there is some cockiness, however, it’s on a level licensed by her awesome talent.
The Real Thing represents a new phase in Jill Scott’s life. Having suffered through the agony of divorce after a twelve-year relationship, Jill said in a recent interview, “I never thought that I would be single. I married my best friend. But I can say that this career, this life path can be detrimental.“ We witness her mourning this loss in songs like “My Love”, which is about discovering the person you still love has moved on. “Insomnia” describes the frustration of a relationship that is in the thick of falling apart and making you crazy. Jill continues, “To be a black woman who is mov- ing forward and growing. There is some- thing not exactly attractive about that; I don’t know what that is, but I choose not to change.” With these powerful last words, Jill is acknowledging that we make choices in life, so we must accept accountability as well. She’s not playing the victim. She’s in charge of her destiny and takes us along on her path, exposing to us her wounds, her pride, her pain, her confidence, and her own resilient heart.
Jill Scott’s creative path has led her into acting as well. Watch for her in Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married? in theatres October 12th. Jill Scott plays Sheila, a woman who is married yet alone inside of the marriage. In light of her own divorce, I can imagine that this was a role that Jill was able to get inside of all too well. The movie covers the marriages of eight former-college friends and speaks to the difficulties of maintaining a solid marriage in modern times. Jill will also star in Anthony Minghella’s production of Ladies Number One Detective Agency. It’s currently in production, but be on the look out for its release in 2008.
Perhaps more than any other singer today (R&B or otherwise), Jill Scott manages to turn the spectrum of real-life drama into poetry and art; her powerful pipes and universal themes will resonate with fans and new converts alike. The Real Thing is a work-of-art record that finds Jill in a highly fertile phase of her artistry, where there are no boundaries: funk, gospel, jazz, classical, R&B, poetry, acting, directing…she can do anything. One of the things that Jill does best is to express herself as sensual being and sultry-voiced siren. A few of the cuts on The Real Thing are just downright sexy. Silky jams like “Crown Royal on Ice” and “All I” send our minds into the bedroom (or into the bathroom for a cold shower if you’re single like me). In “All I” she half-sings-half-whispers, “I can’t even think at night. All I dream about is making love…to you. I’m in the shower, above the kitchen sink, lay me where you wanna’, make my knees weak.” Hello! And while its always sexy to hear Jill sing about sex, I’m sure she would agree with me, there’s nothing like…the real thing.