It has taken three years for us to receive the third installment of Jill Scott’s Words and Sounds studio album series. Whether she’ll admit it or not, The Real Thing, reflects the denouement of the relationship that made the last album Beautifully Human so ebullient.
Let It Be is an aggressive manifesto which opens the album. Military tinged drumming may pull Scott out of any pigeon holes but don’t distance her from her soul roots. Her delivery is still flawless, brutal and charming and the lyrics still evolve around sharp, personal observations about loving and lusting.
Like Angie Stone and Erykah Badu, Scott cares about words. My Love is infused with gentle, impassioned humanity, wry humor and lyrics like “My love is deeper, tighter, sweeter, higher, flyer/ Didn’t you know this, or didn’t you notice?”.
But no matter how powerful the groove is behind it lies poetry. Scott presents a range of relationship ills and sensuous incidents. She shows off her dominion on the rock infused track The Real Thing but also unflinchingly expresses withdrawn and lonely distress during Insomnia. Its spoken word style addresses anxiety and hurt as she waits all night for her partner’s return; the candor could be overwhelming, like reading someone’s diary, but the atmospheric instrumental makes for guilt-free listening.
Some of the weaker tracks on the album do overwhelm. All I and How It Makes You Feel put the album in danger of being labeled a self-pitying rebound album while more tedious mid-tempo efforts such as Only You and Wanna Be Loved, would benefit greatly from committing to a fiercer beat or engaging vocals rather than settling for an emotive lull all too common in R&B ballads.
On the other hand, Celibacy Blues refreshingly shows Scott’s playful side. In the jazzy number she sends a little prayer up to God to cure her nymphomania. With a line as cheerfully delivered as “I get some new batteries almost every night,” it’s hard not to be endeared to her provocative openness.
Five tracks on The Real Thing just make the two minute marker. Epiphany uses shady, retro bass lines and sweet, stinging vocals but in addition to Crown Royal (only 1:50) is sexy but very succinct. They end so abruptly that you’re too distracted listening to the sudden silence to pay attention to the opening chords of the next track.
The album encompasses the universal experiences of loss and yearning but with fifteen tracks it can be a tad repetitive. Lengthy mellow notes are so much in abundance that you might overlook the sage messages she candidly reveals. If we’re used to R&B that stereotypes gender and reduces possibilities with its bombastic and shallow pitch then Jill Scott is entirely different; expansive and full of hope.� Quite one of the most distinctive and brilliant neo-soul performers today The Real Thing is an addition to the opus where Jill Scott proudly showcases her simultaneous celebration of the salubrious and salacious.