Music Review: Jamila Woods’ ‘Water Made Us’ showcases what we love, and loathe, about romance

On “Water Made Us,” the third studio album from Chicago-based neo-soul musician and poet Jamila Woods, romantic love is a featured topic

ByMYA VINNETT Associated Press

October 11, 2023, 7:39 AM

This cover image released by Jagjaguwar shows album art for “Water Made Us” by Jamila Woods. (Jagjaguwar via AP)

The Associated Press

Love can bring great joy and great pain; no wonder it is the source material for great art. For Jamila Woods, the Chicago-based neo-soul musician and poet, romantic love is a featured topic on her third studio album, “Water Made Us.”

Her first full-length project since 2019’s “Legacy! Legacy!” explores all the ins and outs of love, such as falling in it (like in the up-tempo funky track “Practice”), being burned by it (the fluid R&B of “Good News”) and healing from love lost (the mid-tempo “Wolfsheep”).

Before releasing her debut album, “Heavn” in 2016, Woods was known for her work as a poet.

On “Water Made Us,” that talent shines through lyrics that perfectly describe the many nuances of relationships, the bliss and the tragedy. That is abundantly apparent in songs like “Wreckage Room,” where she addresses her lover, “Don’t feel sorry if you leave/Love don’t mean you saving me.”

This 17-track collection highlights Woods’ soulful vocal tone, but occasionally veers into rap. It’s a return to her spoken word roots, like on the psychedelic opening track “Bugs,” and the aforementioned “Practice.”

Collaborations on this album aren’t limited to the traditional feature – such as the verses contributed by Peter CottonTale (“Thermostat”), Saba (“Practice”) and duendita (“Tiny Garden”) — where an artist sings or raps on a particular section of the song. Instead, on an interlude like “let the cards fall,” Woods engages in a brief conversation with visual artist and poet Krista Franklin along with the model and “Pose” actor Indya Moore. In this music-free tack, supported only by the ambient noise of literal cards, the three begin to scratch the surface of what trust in a relationship looks like. It’s Franklin who speaks the song title: “Send it some positive vibration and reframe your question/And I’m just gon let the cards fall.”

Overall, “Water Made Us” is most successful when Woods leans into her singular R&B performance to convey universal experiences. In “Still,” she tells an ex-lover “I finally gave your shirt away/I wore it better than you ever did” with biting acuity, shifting near the songs end to admit what many would be too afraid to: “I guess I’ll never get over you.”

That’s why Wood’s phenomenal writing is so quotable — here, centered around healing, heartbreak and love. Like that last four-letter word, this album is complex and beautiful.


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