Jill Scott

After four years, Jill Scott returns with her second studio album. Fans of her debut, 2000's Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1, will be pleased that the hiatus is over.

Beautifully Human: Words and Sounds Vol. 2 finds Scott mining many of the same themes as before: freedom, family, self-confidence and self-determination, and positive motivations. In particular, she exhibits a keen perception of life's subtleties. This is made apparent when she declares at the opening of the album's first song, "Warm Up," "I am not afraid to be your lady; I am not afraid to be your whore."

Musically, Scott again presides over an organic mix of soul, jazz, and hip-hop. Thematically, the album is full of contrasts, from the banging, anthem-like "Golden" to the sweet and smooth "The Fact Is (I Need You)" and "Spring Summer Feeling." But the most sonically interesting track of the bunch has to be "Talk To Me." It starts off with a typical midtempo, neo-soul groove, then changes gears halfway, becoming a full big band swing arrangement. Meanwhile, Scott takes off herself with some great crooning and easily segues into original scat vocalizations.

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David Mittleman