It is said that “if you change the way you look at things -- the things you look at change.” Jill Scott is an artist that can change the way you look at things.
In short, we believe Jill is arguably one of, if not THE BEST, performer of her generation (in the studio and on stage); one of, if not THE BEST, new lyricists making music today; one of, if not THE BEST, story tellers telling stories; and, one of, if not THE BEST, emerging poets walking the planet. (Jill, by the way, would probably feel extremely uneasy about any of the pronouncements in the previous sentence. This is the same woman who dropped a reference in “Long Walk” to Surah 31:18 and Revelations 3:17 without explanation). In fact, after a sampling of the usual diet of tunes being served over the airways, listening to Jill feels like being soaked by a rainstorm in the middle of the desert. The current rainstorm unleashed on the enclosed disc, comprised of many ‘first take’ performances, is a remarkable display of brilliance (e.g., My Petition), emotion (e.g., Bedda At Home), insight (e.g., The Fact Is [I Need You]), journalism (e.g., Family Reunion) and wisdom (e.g., Still Here).
Against this backdrop of strongly held beliefs about this special artist, deciding on a title and campaign theme for Jill’s eagerly anticipated contribution to the world’s music lexicon was a challenging process made all the more difficult by the extraordinary combination of talents Jill brings to the table. Nevertheless at a company/artist retreat to set the stage for the release of Words And Sounds Vol. 2, we continued our search for a campaign theme for this multi-faceted work of art.
At the time the album was still being recorded, my favorite title: “THE TRUTH” (inspired by her writing on “The Fact Is (I Need You),” “Still Here,” “Rasool,” “Family Reunion,” “I Keep” and of course, “My Petition,” and subtly answering the question raised by her debut release) was ultimately abandoned due to the fear in the room (and by Jill) that it could be misconstrued as arrogance as well as conflict with the imminent release of another artist adopting a similar name. Another favorite: “STILL JILL,” struck many as a great campaign slogan as it seemed to convey so much with just nine letters and two words. It also resonated with many because, while Jill has obviously grown in the four years between the release of her last studio effort, it is reassuring that the qualities that many have come to love and respect about her remained intact; most notably, her searing honesty and uncanny ability to uniquely give voice to the most intimate thoughts shared by millions as she shares her inner most truths and emotions. Many other ideas were floated during the recording process, from the simple: “THE LADY” to “WORDS and SOUNDS,” to complex, lengthy thoughts never quite reduced to an easy title or slogan.
With the walls of a Santa Monica hotel conference room freshly covered with 360 degrees of large poster sized post-it notes filled during 3 days of brainstorming, Jill, fresh out of the studio in Philadelphia, was patched into the room from her house via laptop video conferencing to join the discussion and hear the ideas bantered about by those who love her and this inspiring project. As usual, within minutes Jill had gotten to the heart of the matter. A few days earlier Jill had told me that she had hit upon how to explain her latest offering to others: She described it as “Beautifully Human.” The explanation that followed was no surprise to those who know Jill: brilliant while very simple at the same time; and, very much like her writing itself, subject to interpretation on myriad levels. When she later elaborated upon her thoughts for the group, you could feel a very diverse room become instantly unified behind her wonderful concept. As she described the images she thought should accompany the words ‘beautifully human’ (“people in wheelchairs, pictures of a couples holding hands, old people, folks of all races and nationalities, the homeless, children laughing,” etc.) all the earlier debates seemed to evaporate as everyone pondered the unlimited possibilities and messages that a “Beautifully Human” campaign suggested. Like many of the other album titles and campaign themes suggested, ‘beautifully human’ not only described the body of work but also described a world view and philosophy: Jill’s perspective on life. As she spoke, many in the room began to look at things quite differently. And lo’ and behold what everyone looked at had changed and it was all BEAUTIFULLY HUMAN.
No surprise really. Four years earlier after a Saturday morning meeting to determine how best to take advantage of Jill’s first tour as a featured guest with The Roots when we had no images of Jill and all of the music was still a work in progress, I suggested we have the Hidden Beach Interns stand in front of the venues with picket signs and flyers reading: JILL SCOTT? After laying out how this simple campaign would work and how we would implement it, we called Jill in her Philly apartment to share the idea. Jill briefly hesitated, then replied, “hmmm I like it but…. what about “WHO IS JILL SCOTT?” She went on to simply state that she could continue to answer this question her entire career. Once again, within minutes, Jill got to the heart of the matter and the rest is history.
Weeks after the retreat, I was watching Dr. Wayne Dyer speak as part of a PBS fundraiser. My ears perked up during a discussion of the concept of “beauty.” Proclaiming that “beauty is the ultimate truth,” he quoted Michelangelo’s 15th century observation: “The very beauty that we see here on earth resembles, more than anything else, that celestial source from which we all come.” Jill broke it down a bit differently but reached the same conclusion. I listened closer as Dr. Dyer next asked his audience “Do you see it (beauty) more or less in your life? Can you find it in a homeless person urinating on the street? Can you find beauty in a cockroach? As you reach higher levels of consciousness, not only do you see beauty in everything and everywhere, but you see beauty as truth.” Hmmm. “Sounds like Jill,” I thought. He ended this speech by repeating the last line of 19th century Victorian poet John Keats’s essay on beauty, Ode on a Grecian Urn: “Beauty is truth, truth - beauty -- that is all you know on earth, and all you need to know.” Two hundred years later, our very own 21st century poet captured on the enclosed disc, gives a remarkably similar explanation of the essence of life. Still Jill; still the truth; and always beautifully human.
Jill not only gets to the heart of the matter with the title but with every word deliberately and delicately selected in each and every song. We hope this record becomes more than an essential part of your collection, but one of those rare desert island CDs. Please savor every kernel presented in this special offering. A gift that will hopefully keep giving with every listen. We are immensely proud to bring it to you.