Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Jazmine Sullivan: Fearless

A review of the debut album from Jazmine Sullivan…

I know you be asking yourself who Jazmine Sullivan is right now, but let’s just say you should get familiar with her. Finally releasing her debut album Fearless on J Records, Jazmine stands up and reminds us what mainstream R&B could be right now.

I first noticed Jazmine online a while back singing jazz standards like “‘Round Midnight”. Her gritty alto is easily among the cream of the crop among the artists currently out in the spotlight. One wouldn’t expect any less from a former child prodigy on the gospel scene. What one would find surprising is Jazmine’s writing ability, penning tales with fresh introspection and observation. However, most referenced work is the hit “Say I” which went public under Christina Milian. Regardless, Sullivan’s debut album has been long awaited. Not since Teedra Moses have I been this hopeful about an artist changing the R&B game.

From the very first orchestral flutter in “Bust Your Windows” you notice her music is familiar but harboring a delectable twist. Whether it be replacing the usual synthesized rhythm section with a string section worthy of the Rhode Island Philharmonic or actually acknowledging the childishness of the otherwise clichĂ© broken-hearted vandalism, Jazmine holds it all together with skillful melody. The beauty of the minimalism behind her is that it allows you to acquaint yourself with the subtleties of her delivery for which you are richly rewarded if listening.

Radio hit “Need U Bad” twists the norm with a smooth reggae groove under Jazmine’s soulful ballad. Missy Elliot appears sporadically throughout the track, understandable since she co-produced the album, but mostly leaves room for Jazmine to shine. And shine Miss Sullivan does. The following track “My Foolish Heart” throws a retro soul turnaround on a bass line fitting the mighty Mos Def. But, comes together less obtrusively than the nouveau British invasion. Other tunes explore the retro sound more specifically but again play out into a fun romp (”One Night Stand” and “Switch!”) or funky realization (”Live A Lie”) rather than a heavy-handed effort at a trend.

Standout tracks like “Lions, Tigers & Bears” and “In Love With Another Man” showcase Jazmine’s ability to entertain with her vocals alone, also known as talent. Though I doubt either will be released as a single, the last time I liked a song with no drums (on a mainstream album), everyone was left singing “ordinary people”. With either a few pizzicato plucks from the string section or Donny Hathaway worthy piano accompaniment, Jazmine evokes emotion and the kinds of honest queries with which we seldom confront ourselves.

Overall, Jazmine Sullivan’s debut exceeds all the expectations you didn’t even know you had of someone whom you hadn’t heard. In a time when most of us are scared of drop bills on another album of three mediocre singles and a plethora filler, Jazmine raises the bar for the mainstream artists with exposing lyrics and masterful vocal control that one would expect more from an academy award winning Dreamgirl. I mean, this young lioness has garnered comparisons to Mary J. Blige and others but if she remains so fearless in her singing/songwriting, we may be dropping more legendary names alongside Jazmine Sullivan.

Courtesy of - The Right Side of the Truth

No comments: