A month after releasing her song “SULA (Paperback)” inspired by the first Toni Morrison novel she ever read, Chicago singer and songwriter Jamila Woods returns with the follow-up single and music video, “SULA (Hardcover).”
The “(Hardcover)” version of “SULA” takes a completely different turn when compared to the original, which included Jamila’s smooth and soft vocals over acoustic guitar performed by Justin Canavan. This time around, she repurposes those lyrics over lively and upbeat production driven by drums. The song also comes with a companion video in which Jamila vulnerably strips down. It’s tastefully NSFW as she turns her backyard into a bedroom full of greenery, old portraits and mirrors.
Jamila introduced the first song in a thoughtful open letter to fans. “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,” she wrote. “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.”
The music video was directed by her close friend and Brown Girls creator Fatimah Asghar. Asghar explained the process of creating the collaborative video in a recent press release:
“Who do we give ourselves permission to be when we’re alone? When our gaze is only on ourselves? I’ve always loved SULA by Toni Morrison, and been particularly struck by the way that Sula isn’t understood by the people around her because of her sexuality. Being in quarantine, connecting to my own sexuality in a way that I hadn’t before, re-reading Sula and listening to the song inspired me to think through the concept of the video.
The music video follows Jamila as she goes from the outside world to the inside, disrobing in the comfort of her own space, stripping down to her interior– the part of her no one else gets to see. Quarantine has had us all wondering what our lives, our sexuality, is like away from the gaze of the world. And Sula is all about empowered sexuality, carving your own path outside of what society thinks is okay. Embracing both the empowered erotic in her own way, this video will show a side to Jamila we’ve never seen before.”
Watch Jamila’s “SULA (Hardcover)” visual above and stream the two singles below. In more music updates, Brent Faiyaz is back with his new song “Dead Man Walking”.