The last four years have been fairly eventful for Jill Scott.
During that turbulent span of time, the R&B chanteuse, whose new album The Light of the Sun comes out today, has been divorced, engaged, given birth, dis-engaged (if that’s even a word), acrimoniously split with one record label only to join another, recorded a new album and toured alongside the crowd-pleasing crooner Maxwell. It’s exhausting just writing that on paper. Just imagine having to live through it.
Given the sheer amount of drama packed into the last several years of Ms. Scott’s life, it’s no surprise that The Light of the Sun reflects much of that existential turbulence. Nor does it disappoint. The Philadelphia native’s fourth studio album luxuriates in Scott’s confidence and sophistication.
Each track is steeped in jazz, soul, be-bop and rhythmic sensuousness, without it sounding contrived or overly sleazy. While she’s still earthy enough to be called an “everywoman,” Jill has clearly come a long way from her early days of rhapsodizing about beating down another woman in public.
Just to be clear, The Light of the Sun is not the artistic triumph that her double-platinum debut smash, Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1 was back in 2000. But perhaps the comparison is an unfair one, as Ms. Scott’s latest effort stands on its own solid merits.
Sultry and atmospheric, The Light of the Sun regales its listeners with much of what propelled Ms. Scott to prominence in the first place: mellifluous spoken-word soliloquy, breathy vocals and self-empowering lyrics.
Whether she’s berating herself about giving in to a manipulative lover (“So Gone”), or declaring she-is-woman-hear-her-roar’ (“Womanifesto”), the three-time Grammy winner reveals the power in her voice. Life may have put her through an emotional centrifuge, but no matter. No Lauryn Hill is she, in all her inglorious emotional instability and relentless fertility. Jill Scott doesn’t do meltdowns, thank you kindly. She’ll have you know that she’s the woman she declares herself to be in “Womanifesto”: a ”[expletive deleted] G.”
And it’s just as well. In the rough-and-tumble music industry that is known for cannibalizing its talent or pitting them against one another, toughness goes a long way toward longevity. Jill has survived the sophomore slump and a tumultuous personal life with her dignity and talent intact. And much like a lower-key Mary J. Blige, a relationship or two gone bad has done nothing to dull her affection for romance. “So In Love”, a soulful 70s-tinged duet with the criminally underappreciated Anthony Hamilton, finds Jill Scott at her silky and determined best. In certain respects, “The Light of the Sun” recalls Anita Baker’s fifth album, Rhythm of Love. Both were soul-drenched, quietly intense and showcased their singers’ powerhouse vocals.
Jill Scott has always been different from other R&B singers. She’s an old soul with a youthful spirit, if that makes any sense. She’s opinionated and occasionally controversial, perhaps even a bit flighty. Like any woman, she alternates between pensiveness and playfulness. But through it all she maintains her sense of humor, and keeps her wits about her.
Thankfully, Jill’s skirmish with Hidden Beach means there could be the year of Jill Scott: the label is set to drop previously unreleased material sometime soon. In addition to which, she’s also scheduled to launch a new tour next month. But no matter: even if her Hidden Beach album never sees the light of day, “The Light of the Sun” has enough good music to keep Jilly from Philly’s fans satisfied until her next installment, which hopefully will come soon.