Safer On the Outside: Jamila Woods New Single Breaks Boundaries

By Zoe Elerby

Jamila Woods is a Chicago native creative. To call her work “poetry” doesn’t do it justice, as Woods has created a name for herself through the power of her own incredible lyricism and ethereal voice. She specializes in R&B, using her roots to paint stunning pictures through her words.

Woods has been recognized by Macklemore, Chance the Rapper and the esteemed Kendrick Lamar who is known for his incredible story telling and symbolism. Woods herself has been inspired by the literary world, Black literature being a staple of her music.

In 2019, Woods released a series of singles named after prominent Black creators such as Zora Neale Hurston and James Baldwin as well as the beloved actress and singer Eartha Kitt. This series of singles turned into a highly successful album titled LEGACY! LEGACY! The title referencing the legacy that these Black creators left behind.

On October 6th, Woods released a new single titled “Boundaries”, her first release since her 2020 single SULA (Paperback). However, “Boundaries” has a message that is a bit more personal than her references to the legacies that are in her previous works.

The piece is quite simply about the concept of boundaries within a new romantic relationship, where the budding romance has its place and its importance but each individual needs to understand one another’s own personal space. The song begins with a rapid Spanish guitar quickly followed by Woods’ stunning vocals.

“I’m finding peace when I’m alone. I don’t believe the stories told, these walls are built with time and stone. I’m in control.”

In this lyric, our narrator is referencing past relationships in a subtle way, implying that she didn’t have control at some point in past relationships so she is taking it back while starting this new one. She has reasonable walls but believes that they don’t need to be ripped down so quickly.

“From far away, you seem pristine. There’ll never be a downside. I’d hate to find a reason I should leave.”

“If I let you come inside, you’ll track in all the mud I’m bound to see.”

It seems that our narrator has a broken past when it comes to relationships. She is assuming that this new relationship will bring in “mud” if she lets her new partner into the walls she has built. Despite wanting this relationship, she knows that she will actively try to find something “wrong” with either her current partner or how the relationship will go. She states that they seem perfect from far away but looking back, she realizes that there will be something that makes the relationship imperfect in some way. If she keeps her distance from the relationship then it will always be perfect.

“It’s safer on the outside. I’d hate to find a reason I should leave.”

She feels comforted by the fact that she can keep her distance but at the same time doesn’t want to do anything further than watching this new relationship from afar despite being in it. Woods perfectly captures the wary feeling of starting a new relationship and wanting the perfection that comes with the honeymoon phase but not wanting to go any further than that. The song ends with Woods simply singing the word “boundaries”.

“Boundaries” is a personal reflection on Woods’ part, something that many people can relate to when it comes to settling into a new relationship. Especially if that relationship is following bad or traumatizing experiences with previous partners. You can listen to “Boundaries” on Spotify and other music streaming platforms. Woods has also released a new book with Fatimah Asghar titled “When We Were Sisters” which can be found on Amazon.

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