Jamila Woods – HEAVN

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Her debut album HEAVN proves that Chicago neo-soul singer Jamila Woods is most definitely doing things on her own terms.

Opening track ‘Bubbles’ is an early indication of both the beauty of her voice and the subject matter that will carry through much of the record.

“I hope this album encourages listeners to love themselves and love each other,” she wrote in a press release about the album upon its release.

“For black and brown people, caring for ourselves and each other is not a neutral act. It is a necessary and radical part of the struggle to create a more just society. Our healing and survival are essential to the fight.”

 

Songs like ‘VRY BLK’ (which features a killer verse from fellow Chicagoan Noname) and ‘HEAVN’ are playful. ‘Lonely Lonely’ and ‘LSD’ are slinky. ‘Way Up’ and ‘Black Girl Soldier’ are empowering.

The record’s production is so beautifully polished, but Jamila’s lyrics are always so personal that you never feel as if she’s at an arm’s length. She feels like a friend, particularly in the little voice recordings (that sound as if they were recorded on her phone) that are interspersed throughout the record.

In them she talks about her family, pride, her name and what she has learnt from those who came before her. They’re deeply personal and serve to bring us closer to her.

There’s also a love and respect for pop music from that past evident in many of her songs. Bizarre pastiche crops up when you’re least expecting it.

She drops in verses from artists like Paula Cole (yes, the song from Dawson’s Creek) and The Cure in a way that doesn’t sound forced.

 

It’s inventive, it’s fun and it’s a little anarchic – you could imagine such a move upsetting more than a few people.

But that’s the beauty of an artist working on her own terms. 

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