Beautifully Human: Words And Sounds Vol. 2

Jill Scott

Hidden Beach/A Touch of Jazz, 2004

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


Jill Scott was heralded as one of the leaders of the neo-soul movement of the first part of this decade. Her duet with The Roots on Things Fall Apart brought her to a mass audience. Her 2000 release, Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1, was a damn-near flawless mix of old-school soul and new-school coolness. Earning near universal acclaim with her debut CD, fans and critics waited anxiously for Vol. 2.

And they waited.

Four years may not be much of a wait if it’s a Tool album, but for the R&B and hip-hop communities, four years is a huge wait (hell, Jay-Z couldn’t even make it that long for his first retirement). But Scott got married and continued to do her own thing, be it activism or collaborations. Her 2004 release, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Beautifully Human: Words and Sounds Vol. 2, though a sophomore album, resonates with the confidence of a Curtis Mayfield or Marvin Gaye release, even if she’s only talking about a family picnic or taking a clichéd line like “it takes more than diamonds to woo me” and making it sound like you’re hearing that line for the first time.

Beautifully Human: Words and Sounds Vol. 2, doesn’t stray far from the formula Scott established on her first album. If anything, Beautifully Human is a far more chilled release than her debut. It’s a grower in every sense of the word. Unfortunately, the album only has a few standout songs, such as the empowering “Golden” and the slow, jazzy funk of “Cross My Mind.”

“Cross My Mind,” which won a Grammy in 2005 for Best Urban/Alternative R&B Performance, is a devastating number. While many critics of the misogynistic nature of hip-hop heralded Scott as a voice of female strength, the song doesn’t flinch from expressing her conflicted vulnerability toward a former flame. The song starts off with Scott singing in a longing voice “You know what they say everything ain’t for everybody / But I tried anyway / You sure did smell good.” The song ends with “But the reality honestly -- you were never good for me and I was never good for you.”

Beautifully Human is a wonderfully produced album. It sounds great and it’s the perfect soundtrack for a late summer day with every window open in your house/apartment/flat. The only problem is that such great production actually hinders the album toward the end. Clocking in at 70 minutes, and not a high-energy rave-up in sight for the second half of the album, makes most of the songs after the first half suffer from a sameness that makes it hard to differentiate one from the other.

If Beautifully Human had been pared down to about 50 minutes, the album would have been the cool, mellow counterpart to Scott’s mesmerizing debut. Instead, Beautifully Human is an album that will hopefully eventually be heralded as an underappreciated gem. As the title implies, it’s a flawed, but ultimately beautiful listen.

Rating: B-

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© 2007 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Hidden Beach/A Touch of Jazz, and is used for informational purposes only.