“I’m living the dream,” Judith Hill declared.
Considering Hill’s monumental career thus far—she was mentored by Prince, competed on The Voice, provided songs for a Spike Lee film and has played in live bands for the likes of Josh Groban, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and more—it certainly seems that she’s living the dream. Yet, Hill has her demons too. Struggling against everything from depression to racism (Hill’s father is Black, her mother is Japanese), the COVID-19 pandemic found Hill at a crossroads of sorts… so, she did what she knows how to do best: put it all into music.
Now, on March 5 via Regime Music Group, she’s releasing Baby, I’m Hollywood!, a soulful, introspective, funky, toe-tapping and head-bobbing journey through Hill’s life and times. Looking at everything from interpersonal strife to the legacy of Black and Asian culture in America, the record is a brilliant encapsulation of Hill, her talents and all of the iconic musicians who helped shape her.
“I’m taking in all the different aspects that make me who I am,” Hill said. “It looks at what it means to be an African-American and Asian woman in America right now. I wanted to personify ‘Hollywood’ as a woman who’s a survivor. In my career, I’ve been through so many peaks and valleys, and the show must go on. The message is being persistent, bringing all of your pain and your story to the stage.”
In that regard, Hill’s vision is in line with the bittersweet legacy of Hollywood’s golden age. Balancing themes of joy and comfort with the darker fringes of success and glamour, the record acts like a mirror, not only to Hill’s life, but to the world around her.
“You don’t want people to see everything because it’s not all pretty,” Hill said in a documentary that came out alongside the record on March 5. “I guess I was like the Wizard of Oz—putting on a show, making the lights go crazy, filling the room with smoke. God forbid anyone pulls that curtain, though… messy. But, you know what? I’ll go ahead and say it—I am Hollywood. All of it. The lights and the fun stuff, but also the pain. It’s all one big gumbo, it’s messy. So, I’ll go ahead and claim all of it, not just the good parts.”
While that kind of poetic honesty decorates every track on Baby, I’m Hollywood!, perhaps “Candlelight in the Dark” is the most emblematic moment for Hill.
“To me, it all comes down to ‘Candlelight in the Dark,’” she reflected. “On this record, I shared my journey and struggle that I had with mental health, depression and the dark spaces I was living in. Yet, this song is the ending where I realize that I’m not alone, that there are people out there who love me and care about me. I’m reminding myself to reach out… and I encourage you to reach out too! There are people who are going through the same thing and they get it. They can be that candlelight in the dark for you.”
While that sentiment on its own might be a little clichéd, the music backing it up is so powerful, so lively and so infectious that Baby, I’m Hollywood! feels like a manifesto of sorts, embracing Hill’s struggles and blessings concurrently. Putting it in this context, the appeal to ‘reach out’ feels less like rhetoric and more like an imperative call to action. Hill’s right—sometimes all we need is a little light in the dark.
Watch the documentary for Judith Hill’s new album Baby, I’m Hollywood! below: