Photo Credit: Myesha Evon Gardner
They say hindsight is 20/20, and well, Philadelphia native Jazmine Sullivan is a shining example of that narrative. Heralded as a sensational raw talent when she was thrown in the music scene via her 2008 debut album Fearless, the soul singer-songwriter never seemed quite comfortable in the spotlight. Even then, she admitted to having anxiety and struggling with big crowds. Nevertheless, the LP performed well, producing several solid hits including the Missy Elliot assisted lead single “Need You Bad” and “Bust Your Windows.” Still today, few within her genre can compete with the rare unadulterated affection of the songstresses voice, which remains widely regarded as one of the purest of her time.
Twelve years and a couple of label flub albums later, comes her fourth studio effort with 2021’s Heaux Tales, and it seems the unplanned time off has suited Sullivan just fine. The result is an unapologetic reintroduction to the persona she embodied six years ago. The now 33-year-old sounds the most in command and self-assured as she ever has. The sassy lead track “Pick Up Your Feelings” is completely indicative of this as she confesses to getting caught up with romantic excursions that ended up clouding her artistic journey. Hence, as many had already brushed her career off, Sullivan acknowledged this very fact, and came back blazing! But she doesn’t do it alone.
The setup throughout Heaux Tales is bold and refreshingly told through a set of tales aka intermissions, following every song. Each with its own agenda and message shared through the eyes of your everyday black woman, representing in essence parts of herself. From love and loss, self-esteem, insecurities, self-worth, money, and relationship boundaries. Each sequence keeps you waiting to see what she will address next. Heaux Tales is full of sexually charged baby-making anthems and relationship expectations, and Sullivan is simply a more mature version of herself with a lot more wisdom and humility. She’s lived a little, been hurt, then became happy again. For example on the beautifully H.E.R assisted “Girl Like Me” she revels singing: “And I ain’t wanna be // But you gon’ make a hoe out of me.”
What is most impressive about Sullivan’s talent and newfound persona is the fact that she still has the uncanny ability to allow her voice to make anything flourish to life. Such as the ripe head-bobbing “Price Tags” with a steady hip-hop beat that sounds like it could’ve been plucked right out of the ‘90s Neo-soul era. Along with a fabulous verse by Anderson .Paak to make it an attention stealer! Or on sultry tunes like “Put It Down”, she cruises through a silky 808 beat about varied sexual innuendos.
Then Sullivan sashays along slickly on the introspective coming of age, “Lost One” about losing good people in your life and regretting it but learning from every situation. Most of the LP provides the smooth type of groove that will get airplay at neighborhood cocktail lounges everywhere for the duration of the coming summer and fall nights. Although, as with her previous projects, there are a couple of tracks here and there that she tends to over sing unnecessarily.
However in the end, this album is undoubtedly a ladies tell-all! But delightfully enlightening for both sexes. Serving as a real-life story that sheds away everything surface level and getting down to the nitty-gritty harsh realities of relationships, lust, and trust. The core content centers on the dynamics of romance and how it will always be the same, just with different players. Embracing the good, bad, and the ugly we all feel at some point. Jazmine Sullivan exposes this and presents it in the most realistic way possible. In essence, through Heaux Tales we see a girl grow into a woman right before our very eyes, and it is a beautiful thing.