Album Review: Reality Show by Jazmine Sullivan

The new year opens loaded with Jazmine Sullivan’s return to the scene. Reality Show, her 3rd album, is in stores this week.

A brief hiatus following the release (and poor commercial reception) of her second album Love Me Back, released in 2010, had left many R&B fans missing this incredibly talented singer and songwriter. The Philly native Jazmine Sullivan has, in fact, not only taken the hearts of aficionados with her own work but also with songs she’s written for other artists including Monica and Mary J. Blige.

The new album picks up right where Jazmine left, although its sound is definitely more modern and in line with what has been going on in the R&B world in the past 4 years, it’s a look at how she’s evolved during this period and it’s a pleasant discovery. Reality Show opens with the first single “Dumb,” which immediately sets a serious and dark tone for the album. “Mascara” follows with its smooth beat and Jazmine’s laid back vocal delivery, providing one of the record’s highlights. The song deals with the frivolous bragging of a woman using make up and the gifts of her man to mask her insecurities and the fear that she may be replaced by whoever will come along with better to offer.

The first few songs all have a more contemporary sound: “Silver Lining” could pass off as a Frank Ocean song, while “#HoodLove” recalls the darkness of the lead single with its bass-heavy structure. The latter portion of the album then features the throwback references we’ve all come to love on Jasmine’s work. “Let It Burn” is a beautiful love song which recalls the 80s R&B slow jams with its sample of After 7’s “Ready or Not;” the guitar driven “Forever Don’t Last” has the most emotional vocal performance of the album, partly enhanced by the sparse nature of the production. The warning to women “Stupid Girl,” which she premiered over the summer in acoustic and almost Lauryn Hill-esque form, takes the shape of a 60s-inspired old school R&B song on the final version complete with brass sections.

The musical palette of the album is quite diversified, yet the whole record feels cohesive because it’s kept together by Jazmine’s sharp writing and her ability to infuse every bit of her soul into every song. Her vocals are passionate, heartfelt and attentive to the songs’ structures. The raspiness of her timbre serves as a mirror for her feelings and we get to hear each of them. Jazmine continues to prove, with this third album, why she’s one of the best artists to come out in the past decade. Her work brings a realness and rawness to the table that are much appreciated. The warmth of her voice and the organic productions are welcome as an alternative to the landscape of electronic and synthesized tracks that dominate today’s music scene.

 

Grade:

90/97

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: