Jamila Woods | Water Made Us Review
Flowing Through Love and Life: Jamila Woods’ Water Made Us
by Bea Willis
Jamila Woods’ third studio album, Water Made Us, has a rich interplay of elements one must first understand that serve as its foundation. Woods is a Chicago native who straddles the worlds of poetry and music, influenced by literary figures like Toni Morrison, Lucille Clifton, Gwendolyn Brooks, and musical stalwarts like Erykah Badu and Kendrick Lamar. As the Associate Artistic Director of the non-profit youth organization Young Chicago Authors, Woods is deeply embedded in her community. This album, released on October 13, 2023, under the Indiana-based independent record label Jagjaguwar, reveals her explorations into the complexities of love through a hybrid lens of neo-soul, hip-hop, and poetic lyricism.
The album’s title is inspired by a Toni Morrison quote: “All water has perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it is.” This thematic anchor profoundly influences Woods’ perspective throughout the album. She taps into the concept of water as a metaphor for fluidity, memory, and return, which permeates the lyrics. As Woods herself mentioned, the album is meant to traverse the life cycle of a relationship, where the feeling of love attempts to flow back to its origin, despite the obstacles that may come its way.
Water Made Us is a 17-track album recorded at iconic locations including Studio A in Las Vegas and Capitol Studios in Los Angeles. Co-produced by Chris McClenney, the album carefully blends ethereal interludes with more grounded songs. The opening track, “Bugs,” provides a funky, hip-hop-infused introduction to the emotional terrain Woods intends to cover. Here, her dexterous usage of language paints vivid imagery, as she advises listeners to “let a few bugs live,” hinting at the album’s embrace of imperfections and complexities.
The record also features collaborations that enrich its sonic and thematic depth. In “Tiny Garden,” artist duendita makes a guest appearance, while “Practice” includes contributions from Saba. These collaborations act as hip-hop ornamentation; they introduce different artistic perspectives that interact with Woods’ foundational themes. Woods’ vocal execution here lacks the emotion of a vocalist and could benefit from more range in her melody.
Tracks like “Send A Dove” and “I Miss All My Exes” capture the emotional essence but fall short of musical execution. “Send A Dove” leaves you wanting more in terms of melody and production punch. Similarly, “I Miss All My Exes” could be more musically engaging. Though Woods’ lyrics and voice are compelling, the production sometimes needs to do justice to the weight of the words, lacking the punch or dynamic range that could elevate the songs to a more impactful level.
Jamila Woods’ Water Made Us is a complex narrative tapestry, weaving her poetic inclinations into a sonorous neo-soul fabric. It excels in lyricism and thematic focus but leaves room for improvement in vocal dynamism and production intricacies. Above all, it’s a personal and vulnerable journey that mirrors the cyclic nature of relationships, love, and life itself. It’s Woods’ attempt to grapple with the imperfections and complexities inherent in these cycles, urging us, like water, to find our way back to our origins and authentic selves.
Water Made Us
Release Date: October 13, 2023
About the author
With an unwavering passion for music that began at the tender age of five, I embarked on a journey of self-expression through the piano, later expanding my repertoire to the guitar and the art of singing. As a seasoned performer in cozy coffee shops and harmonious choir ensembles, I've immersed myself in the diverse tapestry of musical genres, seeking to uncover the intricate qualities that strike a chord within our souls.
Beyond my personal experiences, my journalistic pursuits have led me to explore the stories and inspirations behind the melodies we hold dear. As a music journalist, I aim to delve into the heart of each composition, shedding light on the creative minds that have shaped the soundscape of our lives.
In my downtime, you can find me serenading my loyal canine companion with heartfelt tunes on the guitar or indulging in retail therapy to enhance my ever-growing wardrobe. Songwriting holds a special place in my heart, and I yearn for the day when I can share my creative talents with the world. Until then, my passion for uncovering the emotional power within music continues to drive my insightful reviews and analyses, as I journey through the rich landscape of melodies that move us.