I don’t know if I can tell you who Jill Scott is, but I can tell you what she is: she’s ambitious. Scott wants us to both accept her as a very talented singer and a poet. That’s something very few people can pull off.
Scott’s songs are pretty decent, there are a enough strong melodies that the full length of this very long debut album often isn’t very apparent while I’m listening to the songs. For a set of songs on a debut in particular, they are pretty strong. (Scott co-writes with various producers.) The lyrics are refreshing for R&B as at least her voice is not what I’m used to. And she’s clearly putting thought into them to a degree to which most other R&B singers who write do not. (This should not be a surprise given that she wants us to accept her as a poet.)
Scott’s voice is pretty great, and she uses judiciously, only truly showing off on a couple of songs, including the totally random live clip inserted from a Roots concert. (I guess it’s there to convince us of her pipes, since she’s rather restrained the rest of the time?)
The spoken word pieces mostly substitute for what would be skits on a traditional ’90s hip hop or R&B record. And so that is a welcome change. I’m not sure I’m completely sold on her poetry – and this isn’t really my thing – but I really appreciate her attempting to make the format her own by insisting on including her poetry instead of the inane skits that usually drag these albums to 70+ minutes. Spoken word isn’t something I look for in a music album, but I realize that’s just me.
The production is slick, too slick for my tastes. But the whole thing also isn’t as poppy and lush as some of these things are. Though it’s definitely on the slicker side of the Neo-Soul spectrum it isn’t polished so completely as to lose the soul.
This is absolutely not my thing. But I appreciate her ambition and she’s definitely very talented. It does feel like this is someone who knows what she wants to do and has managed to find a way of doing it in an industry that usually favours pipes alone, or looks, or both, and not someone who is trying to make art.