Up to the moment when Fearless was released, it was not easy to gauge which path Jazmine Sullivan would take. Jive spent three years trying to figure it out and dropped her before any material officially surfaced. She co-wrote a number four club hit ("Say I") for Christina Milian, recorded with Kindred the Family Soul and Fantasia, contributed adult-oriented R&B tracks to a handful of low-key compilations, signed to J, and notched a number one R&B/hip-hop single with the yearning/swaggering "Need U Bad." Was she a pop songwriter, a young member of the "grown folks R&B" division, or a young Lauryn Hill? Charting all her moves, it seemed like she was trying out a number of styles to find some footing, but with Fearless, it is clear she is comfortable in each mode. Within the span of 45 minutes, Sullivan switches between a number of tacks, both stylistically and emotionally, each one flush with conviction, and not just for the sake of variety. Amidst the orchestral backdrop of "Bust Your Windows" and the rushing breakbeat of "Call Me Guilty," she's clear about not being one to cross without expecting payback, whether it results in property damage or self-defense bloodshed. "Dream Big," a swallow-you-whole four-four thumper, is an ambitious motivational anthem -- Missy Elliott nicks nearly all of its drive and dramatics from Daft Punk's "Veridis Quo" -- while "Fear" looks inward with a disarming level of sincerity (Salaam Remi connects the hook from Stevie Wonder's "I Was Made to Love Her" to Anne Dudley's piano outro from the Art of Noise's "Beatbox," the album's most clever production trick). Some tracks are throwbacks through and through, like the peppy "One Night Stand" (where she fronts a girl group) and the aching "In Love with Another Man" (a tear-the-house-down ballad). There's a lot of range on display here, and there is just as much depth.
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman