Jazmine Sullivan, ‘Reality Show’ [ALBUM REVIEW]
Five years is a long time to be away from the spotlight. Music fans have witnessed artists make successful comebacks, while others have failed to achieve the same lauded career they once created for themselves. Nevertheless, Jazmine Sullivan is braving the slippery slope with her own comeback by releasing ‘Reality Show,’ the follow-up to 2010’s ‘Love Me Back.’
Naturally, her supporters were disappointed in 2011, when she revealed on Twitter that she was leaving the game because creating music was no longer "fun for her." At first listen to ‘Reality Show,' fans can appreciate the time away that she took to mature, hone her craft and deliver an exceptional, well-rounded body of work.
This time around, you not only hear but feel the complex emotions Jazmine dealt with while on hiatus. She holds tight to notes and uses restraint on her voice when it's needed -- she's not belting out soaring ballads every chance she gets. The songstress has confidence in her voice, which is proven throughout the record.
Her songwriting skills have never been at question either. She penned and co-produced her first album, ‘Fearless,' alongside mentor Missy Elliott, Wyclef Jean and longtime collaborators Carvin & Ivan and Salaam Remi. With 'Reality Show,' there's an obvious inquiry of whether or not her storytelling abilities have evolved to fit in with today’s sound -- all while maintaining her strong musical foundation. She manages to execute her pen game strongly here.
With her Key Wane-produced lead single ‘Dumb,’ featuring fellow Philadelphia native Meek Mill, Jazmine steps back into the lion's den that is the music industry with a versatile, catchy hit easily rotated into radio play or any club DJ's set.
Watch Jazmine Sullivan's 'Dumb' Video Feat. Meek Mill
Take ‘Brand New,' which possesses a heavily '90’s-inspired vibe intertwined with just the right amount of bounce to ignite a two-step. There are hints of jazz courtesy of the horns -- another intricate detail that takes her music to another level. The lyrical content offers a modern influence over the nostalgic beat as Jazmine explains how women dream of a better life with their partner but get left in the dust once their man attains success.
“This one's for / All the baby mamas and the down ass chicks / Remember y'all used to take bathroom pics in the crib / And he said if he ever got rich, we out this bitch / Believe that s---,” she belts out.
If it’s one thing we learn from ‘Reality Show’ it's that Jazmine’s loyalty runs deep. On ‘#HoodLove’ we get another glimpse of her dedication to her companion. The singer goes off, declaring she is a ride-or-die chick that will do anything for her man -- even if it means taking a charge or squeezing the trigger. However, this love left her heartbroken and doubting herself. Her ability to be vulnerable with her fans earns her all the more points.
But with strength comes insecurities and Jazmine has no problem showing both sides of her reality. With tracks like ‘Mascara,’ the chanteuse seems obsessed with her outer appearance. But before you go thinking she’s “that girl,” it’s clear she isn’t completely comfortable putting on a "face" all of the time. She's more worried about what people will think of her if she's not at her best. "I keep mascara in my pocket if I'm running to the market / 'Cause you never know who's watching you / So I got to stay on / I got to stay on," she sings.
On a closer listen, it’s clear that the track is in fact satirical, showing off the 27-year-old singer’s humorous side. From making fun of industry divas -- herself included -- Jazmine turns inward focusing on her own self-esteem issues on ‘Masterpiece,’ one of the best songs on the album. The acoustic ballad, produced by Ant Bell and Jazmine, showcases her unique raspy vocals and crafty penmanship.
“Every part of me is a vision of a portrait / Of Mona, of Mona Lisa / Every part of me is beautiful / And I finally see I'm a work of art / A masterpiece,” she sings on the chorus, confirming that despite of all her soul searching, she’s still a phenomenal woman. Simple, yet hard-hitting, this is sure to be an uplifting women’s anthem for years to come.
‘Reality Show’ may share the same name of those dramatic soap operas you love to hate, but it's far more compelling than that. This album is like a five year-long diary brought to life in song. The project serves as a personal reminder that this is her life and her story, including the highs, lows, flaws and all. This reality suits her well.
Listen to Jazmine Sullivan's 'Mascara'
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