I see London. I see France. I see Jully's not wearing much in the way of pants. On the cover of her new album, Revival, Toronto R & B singer Jully Black is toweringly hot in high heels and what looks to be nothing more than an ambitious blouse. With a low camera angle, her long, brown legs go on up forever. It's very nice, but, one wonders, did she forget her trousers the morning of the photo shoot or what?
"Ha-ha!" is Black's response, laughing on the phone from Regina. "It's a dress, absolutely! A la Tina Turner, or Gladys Knight - yeah, she wore a mini."
Often, when a woman is complimented on a frock, she will say, "What? This little thing? It's just something I threw on." Of course, they don't actually mean that. But in Black's case, "this little thing" is dead on. You can't imagine that she'd wear the thigh-flashing baby doll on the street. "Sure I would, if I feel good," she says quickly. "I'm 5 foot 11, and the reality is that I have legs for days. I'm very comfortable with who I am. I'm a woman, very proud to be."
Black (whose first name is pronounced JOO-lee) has the right to be feelin' tall these days. A concert tour that brings her to Toronto's Mod Club tomorrow is selling out shows, and Seven Day Fool, the album's retro-rocking first single is a big hit, finding itself on the top 10 of downloaded iTunes last week. It's a remake of an old Etta James hit, very much in the bumpy, rhythmic style of Amy Winehouse's Rehab.
Everybody's digging the tune, apparently, except a few women who don't appreciate the subservient slant of the lyrics. "Nobody should be taking it that seriously," Black says, shrugging off any feminist concerns. "You know, it ain't that deep."
But still: "Do for you, baby, for the love that I seek/ Slave for you, baby, every day of the week." A bit outdated, no? "I'm the youngest of nine kids," says Black, who just turned 30. "My mom is in her 70s. I watched her washing the dirty clothes and doing a whole lot more."
For Black, singing the song was an homage to both James ("my favourite singer of all time") and her mother. "It was nice, to actually play that role. And it still exists. I think the idea of standing by your man is great."
Mind you, Black is nobody's fool. The album's name ( Revival), and another track ( Queen), speak to things more serious. The singer's debut album (2005's This is Me) was marred by the illegal downloading of its content. As well, there was a romantic breakup, and a friend of hers died young. At the end of her tour with the Black Eyed Peas two years ago, Black was unsure of her future. "It was like the end of summer camp," she recalls. "I was wondering if it was going to happen again."
It has. The former high-school athlete upped her workout regimen and recorded an album (with the help of producer Keith Harris of the Black Eyed Peas) that has her career in the same fine shape as her rich alto and admirable physique. The song Queen speaks to Black's lofty goals - she sees herself as the "face of the dream," of putting Canadian R & B on the map.
Ah, we can hear the shouts of her followers. "Long live the Queen," they will yell. And maybe, "the Queen, she's not wearing any pants!"
Jully Black plays Toronto's Mod Club tomorrow; Montreal, Saturday; Hamilton, Sunday; Wakefield, Que., Nov. 15; Calgary, Nov. 16; and Ottawa, Nov. 17.