Jazmine Sullivan | Reality Show (RCA)
by Brent Faulkner
Prior to the release of her third album Reality Show, it had been nearly five years since Philly R&B artist Jazmine Sullivan had released a new studio album. It seemed after another critical home-run in sophomore album Love Me Back that Sullivan simply disappeared from the face of the earth. Gone were the commanding pipes of one of contemporary R&B’s most impressive new voices. Thankfully, following her lengthy hiatus, the 27-year old singer returns in top-notch form with no drop-off to be found. Once more, the natural talent and immense skill set of the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts graduate is truly a sight to behold – rather than listen to. On Reality Show, Sullivan works with various producers including Key Wane, DJ Dahi, Chuck Harmony, Salaam Remi, Da Internz and Anthony Bell.
There are no notable rubs about Reality Show – the album is exceptional from top to bottom. While Reality Show contrasts previous albums by Sullivan, that doesn’t discount its tremendous quality. “Dumb,” a notable track produced by Key Wane, initiates Reality Show in electrifying fashion, finding Sullivan playing on offense from the start. Chocked full to the brim with attitude, Sullivan asserts she’s not stupid, but her man is. She moves on from highlight utter stupidity to tackling women’s image issues with the magnificently penned “Mascara.” Posed somewhat vainly, ultimately the “mascara” is a cover for insecurity. Another ‘three-point jumper’ comes by way of “Forever Don’t Last,” arguably the song most reminiscent of her past work. Through the throwback soul joint, the listener can perceive Sullivan’s heartbreak through powerful, nuanced vocals.
Even with the aforementioned considered to be the crème de la crème, Reality Show possesses an assortment of weapons. On “Brand New,” Sullivan flips the bird to her man whom she’s stood by, but has forgotten her and his humbler beginnings thanks to newfound fame (he’s “brand new”). Ultimately, the track is a larger message about transcending its more specific narrative. With so much adversity and bad times in life, Sullivan embraces “Silver Lining,” showing vocal robustness in her lower register and emphatic jubilance in her upper extremes. Love has infused itself upon Sullivan like drugs on the left-of-center “Veins,” while Sullivan makes further stylistic shifts on the 50s-inspired “Stupid Girls” and opts for dancing shoes on Da Internz produced “Stanley.” Even with experiment after experiment, Sullivan’s artistic versatility is awe-inspiring. Oh, and don’t forget about the haunting “Masterpiece (Mona Lisa),” in which Sullivan embraces her beauty, as opposed to her “mascara.”
Through and through, Reality Show is a treat – it’s something like the sweetest, most decadent dessert. Jazmine Sullivan continues to show the upmost consistency as a musician, regardless of genre. Specific to R&B itself, Sullivan easily ranks among the best of the new generation. Reality Show ultimately continues and exemplifies Sullivan’s tremendous talent. If there’s anything to take issue with, maybe it’s the added salty language by the chanteuse. Even so, a feisty Jazmine only further cements the authenticity of the material. Sullivan does nothing but excel time and time again.
The Urban Music Scene