The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Review | Jamila Woods’ ‘Water Made Us’ is a declaration of devotion and evolution

Photo courtesy of Genius
Jamila Woods “Water Made Us” cover art.

In her newest album “Water Made Us,” Chicago native Jamila Woods explores sacrifice, commitment, self-transformation and release in the backdrop of romantic endeavors. 

The 17-track neo-soul album, released on Oct. 13, marks Woods’s third album under the Indiana-based independent record label Jagjaguwar. 

The track list consists of ethereal, soothing songs with poignant penmanship and interludes interspersed. Many of these interludes highlight Woods’ background as a poet, as spoken-word poetry is used as a medium to further explore concepts highlighted across the album.

“Bugs,” the opening track, sets the album’s steady pace. The repeated piano figure and layered vocals emulate the cyclic nature of Woods’ thoughts: Though annoyances arise in relationships, it is the love for one another that trivializes such problems.

“It bugs me but I do it for ya,” Woods repeatedly sings in the chorus. 

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“Tiny Garden,” the following track and first single released, continues this theme of nonchalant love. 

“Said it’s going to be a tiny garden/ But I’ll feed it every day,” Woods sings. 

The nurturing of the tiny garden symbolizes growth within a relationship. Woods alludes to the work being put into maintaining a relationship by “feeding” the garden every day. 

Featured artist duendita expands on the allegory in the bridge with the line “water us so we may rise deeper in ourselves each night.” Her airy, vocal timbre complements Woods’ dreamy enunciation, amplifying the underlying tranquility of the track. 

Woods often uses metaphors of nature and water throughout the album to express complex narratives of love. One such instance is “Send a Dove,” an alternative R&B track with bouncy synthesizers and trap-inspired rhythms. 

“I will go down for you/ Covered in mud, I’ll kiss the ground for you,” harmonize backing vocalists on the final chorus. 

The interplay of love and sacrifice is grappled with repeatedly throughout the album. “I hope you send a dove,” Woods and the choir proclaim, indicating she wants love in return for her dedication.

“Boomerang” is a sonic shift from the rest of the tracks. The indie-pop instrumentation promotes a sense of forwardness that is not present in many other parts of the album. This forwardness is paralleled in lyrics, as Woods boldly asks the person alluded to in the song to dance with her. “You wanna have a dance with me?” Woods presses. Though this request is repeated without success, Woods shows no signs of slowing her pursuits.

The penultimate track “Good News” acts as a preeminent closer, underscoring the main theme of the album: the cycle of love. 

“The good news we were happy once/ The good news is water always runs back,” Woods sings wistfully. 

Woods’ articulation is reminiscent of her Chicagoan contemporaries, namely Ravyn Lanae.

“Headfirst” closes the album. A slow, steady rhythm grounds the track while guitars arpeggiate in the background. 

“Some people say you find the one, you make it work,” Woods sings, continuing the theme of cyclical love from the previous track, “Good News.”

In an interview with NPR, Woods said the album’s title was inspired by a Toni Morrison quote: “All water has perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it is.”

It is apparent how this quote influences the metaphors of this album and Woods’ intimate writing. Woods woes over struggles related to love but recognizes that the love she has is in stasis; no matter what occurs, as long as said love is strong enough, then the relationship will return to bliss and continue to flourish.


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