Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Jazmine Sullivan

  • Fearless [J, 2008] ***
  • Love Me Back [J, 2010] A-
  • Reality Show [RCA, 2015] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Fearless [J, 2008]
Acerbically, vulnerably, neo-soul ingénue faces the world ("Bust Your Windows," "Fear"). ***

Love Me Back [J, 2010]
Although overdoing the soulful melodrama doesn't beat overdoing the suave cool as decisively as the retro-nuevo believe, the songwriting here is a big extra difference maker, with enough pop moves to lighten the overall mood. Except on a multi-sampled opener shared by a record-seeking 19 creative partners, Sullivan is front and center, role-playing with unflinching intelligence: fluttery in "Stuttering," steadfast in "Love You Long Time," unable to break it off in "U Get on My Nerves," giddy to be free in "Luv Back," sure-likes-to-ball in "Don't Make Me Wait." Sure these could all be personal history, with the crack whore/domestic abuser one added for consciousness points. But it's simpler just to wish every pro was such an astute student of the female condition. A-

Reality Show [RCA, 2015]
No one in r&b tells stories like Sullivan, and not just because no one in r&b tells stories at all anymore. Shouting, crooning, or oversharing, she's not some fake-or-not gangsta moll, though once she carries a .45 in her Louis Vuitton because that's how "#Hoodlove" rolls. Other personas include a club moll paying the rent with her prosthetic ass, a jobseeker turned stickup kid, a Mona Lisa, a junkie, and a gal smart enough to polish up a Babyface hook for the love of her life (she wishes). In one song Meek Mill is "dumb." In another Jazmine is "stupid." In a third she'll settle for a man who'll take a bitch to dinner. A-