Every song on Jamila Woods’ last album, last year’s great LEGACY! LEGACY!, was inspired by a different iconic artist of color: “Zora,” “Eartha,” “Baldwin.” Today, the soulful Chicago R&B singer and poet is back with her first new song since then, “SULA (Paperback),” named after Toni Morrison’s 1973 novel Sula. As Woods explains:
It’s the first Toni Morisson novel I ever read and it inspired the first chapbook of poems I ever wrote. The novel shows the evolution of a friendship between two Black women and how they choose to navigate society’s strict gender roles and rules of respectability. On Sula, Toni Morrison wrote, “living totally by the law and surrendering totally to it without questioning anything sometimes makes it impossible to know anything about yourself.” Returning to the story several years later, it gave me permission to reject confining ideas about my identity designed to shrink my spirit. It reminded me to embrace my tenderness, my sensitivities, my ways of being in my body. This song is a mantra to allow myself space to experience my gender, love, intimacy, and sexuality on my own terms.
“SULA” the song is absolutely lovely, with spacious, softly glowing guitar strums from Justin Canavan gently wrapping themselves around Woods’ inimitable voice. Listen below.