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Scott discovers beauty in being human

Observer Scene | Thursday, September 9, 2004

With her debut CD, “Who is Jill Scott?: Words and Sounds, Vol. 1,” Jill Scott took a chance by releasing an album that was a far cry from mainstream R&B. Instead of relying heavily on 70s soul samples and lyrics lending themselves to street credibility, Scott’s music was seeped in jazz melodies, lyrical poetry and a tremendous amount of her indelible spirit. The album was so distinct in sound that it was nominated for three Grammys and helped bring to life a new genre of music known as “Neo Soul.” With songs like “Gettin’ in the Way” and “A Long Walk,” listeners quickly learned that Scott was a self-proclaimed “ghetto queen” who was more than willing to fight over her man in addition to celebrating her love for food, family and self. Four years later, Scott has returned with her second album, “Beautifully Human: Words and Sounds, Vol. 2.” This time around the “ghetto queen” has matured quite a bit. In the time between making this album and her first, the songstress has performed in the Broadway musical “Rent”, refused to write new music and even married the type of man she often sang about. Such experiences have shaped this CD. “Beautifully Human” is a forward-looking album that resonates with all the feelings associated with the R&B poetess’ newfound love. Lush melodies surrounded by poignant lyrics connect with anyone who has been in a significant relationship and help bring the album to life. Through pure artistry, Jilly from Philly reveals how sweet it is to be human.On the first single off the album, “Golden,” Scott shares some newfound knowledge with listeners. She sings of setting herself free and living life exactly as she chooses: “I’m taking my freedom / pulling it off the shelf / putting it on my chain / wearing it around my neck / I’m taking my freedom putting it in my car / wherever I choose to go / it will take me far.” With the soaring refrain of “I’m living my life like it’s golden” repeated throughout the song, one gets the sense Scott is determined to celebrate not only who she is but also who she can become. Scott’s personal maturation is accompanied by vocal development as well. She is more willing to explore her far-reaching range than in the past. On “Rasool,” an admonitory song about the life of crime, Scott wails with the passion and emotion often associated with the queen of soul, Aretha Franklin. On “The Fact Is (I Need You)” and “Spring Summer Feeling,” the diva oohs and coos with the best of them. Her voice is light and soft, leaving one either yearning to live what she sings so proudly about, or enjoying the fact that he or she has. Scott also has not lost her propensity to take chances. On “My Petition,” which initially sounds like the tale of a lost love, she drops lines from the national anthem and ends up lamenting over her loss of faith in the United States. “Bedda at Home” finds Scott willingly admitting that she is fascinated by another man, but comes to the conclusion that she has “something better at home.”With “Beautifully Human” Jill Scott continues to push the bounds of current day R&B. She refuses to let the past define her music, and instead explores the universal human experience. The singer effectively melds spoken word with pure soul and transcendent music. Her songs are the stories of love gained and lost, of lives lived and perished, of songs heard and unheard. Altogether, it is a human story that reveals the beauty resting in this woman’s soul.