Jazmine Sullivan

Reality Show

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Love Me Back wasn't quite two months old when Jazmine Sullivan, a singer's singer and songwriter's songwriter, tweeted that she was going to take an indefinite break from music. She noted that a lack of self-belief was a reason. Four years later, after she duetted with fellow under-recognized titan Bilal on Robert Glasper Experiment's Black Radio 2, took part in a documentary web series (in which Beyoncé gushed that Sullivan is "one of the best"), and issued three singles, she made her full return with Reality Show. Heated march "Dumb," defeated rustic ballad "Forever Don't Last," and trenchant slow jam "Mascara," that trio of pre-album A-sides, effectively indicated that the album would be different yet characteristically multitudinous. What's most noticeable about Reality Show is that Sullivan utilizes her in-the-red wail only sparingly. She diversifies her vocal approaches and sings more frequently with swagger. One moment, over a Chuck Harmony production that sounds like a prelude to a crime scene in a gangster flick, she boasts about the .45 in her purse and willing-to-kill support for her man. In another, she delivers a droning, steely warning to a lame lover over synthetic disco courtesy of da Internz (hear also: Annie's "The Greatest Hit," Patrice Rushen's "Forget Me Nots"). As in that highlight, Sullivan's throwback moments here tend not to go as far back in time; blissful, liquid slow jam "Let It Burn," as another example, borrows from After 7's "Ready or Not." Altogether, the contributions of long-term Sullivan associates like Harmony, Salaam Remi, and Ant Bell, along with those from Key Wane and JoeLogic & Dilemma, give the album a relatively contemporary feel. Just as potent and lasting as Fearless and Love Me Back, Reality Show completes one of the most impressive first-three-album runs.

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