Search the name Jazmine Sullivan online, and you’re likely to find the name of another powerful vocalist-slash-songwriter: Adele. There are Twitter pleas for collaborations between the two, year-end lists including them both, and perhaps, more often, think pieces that end in questions about why Sullivan doesn’t get as much appreciation as her peer from across the pond.
The theories vary, but many point the finger at race — an undervaluing of R&B by black artists, and the overvaluing of white singers, from Sam Smith to Justin Timberlake. Whatever the case, Sullivan is aware of the discussions, on and off the Web, but she doesn’t spend too much time thinking about it.
“I guess I’m glad that people are recognizing me in some way, and kind of see there’s a little injustice in how black soul artists are received,” Sullivan said in a recent interview. “But, at the same time, I try not to focus so much on the negativity.” (more…)
Jazmine Sullivan Opens Up About Biggest Competition at Grammys
Jazmine Sullivan took a break from music in 2011, so when she returned with a new album last year, the stakes seemed high.
“I hadn’t been out for a while, like two or three years,” Sullivan tells EW of when she started recordingReality Show. “There was a lot of pressure to make it good.”
Fast forward to the end of 2015, and the 28-year-old singer’s calming 12-track R&B set racked up threeGrammy nominations for Best R&B Song, Best Traditional R&B performance, and Best R&B Album. It took Sullivan nearly two years, during which she moved back in with her parents, to perfect her comeback record, she says.
Despite receiving eight prior nominations for 2008’sFearless and 2010’s Love Me Back — including a Best New Artist nod in 2009 — it might be the result of her moving back to mom and dad that earns Sullivan her first Grammy. “The first time I was nominated, I was nominated for five Grammys for my first album, and I just remember being shocked,” the Philadelphia native recalls. “[This year] all the categories that I’m in are pretty tough, so whoever wins is going to be deserving.”
Ahead of the Feb. 15 award show, Sullivan spoke to EW about the possibility of taking home her first Grammy, who she considers her biggest competition for a statue, and what she wants to discuss with Beyoncé when the night comes.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Reality Show was your first album in five years, so how does it feel to get this kind of recognition for it?
It’s amazing. The fear of not being out for a while and having to come out, it’s overwhelming at times. So to have that and put the album out and do so well, and then to be nominated for a Grammy for your work, it just validates all my hard work that I put in.
What would it mean for you to win after having been nominated so much for your first two albums?
These are some pretty tough categories this year. I think every time I’m nominated they’re tough though. (more…)
“JAZMINE SULLIVAN’S REALITY SHOW DESERVES TO BE DISCUSSED ALONGSIDE THE MORE FÊTED, MORE MALE WORKS BY KENDRICK LAMAR AND D’ANGELO.”
What we call reality was bullshit for Jazmine Sullivan, too, but instead of escaping into an idealised archetype she regifted humanity to a cast of stock characters. Neither critics nor R&B radio quite knew how to deal with Reality Show: Sullivan had long been cast in the confessional soul lineage of Mary J. Blige, Keyshia Cole and K. Michelle, but here was an album which mostly deflected all attention away from Sullivan herself. Essentially, it joins R&B up with country’s storytelling tradition – and specifically, it plays out like her version of Brandy Clark’s masterful 2013 debut 12 Stories in its focus on the women whose lives don’t always get sung about as anything other than a punchline, with the emphasis always on empathy.
Sullivan’s genius is to flesh out her characters from every angle at once. ‘Brand New’ finds a struggle rapper’s loyal girlfriend discarded as soon as he gets some fame, and it’s the details that make Sullivan’s narrative cut deep: the cheap dress she buys every week to keep up appearances at his shows, the “do not disturb” sign on his studio door that already blocks her out, the embarrassment when her friends see his career ascending without her, the wasted years that loom over the song. Meanwhile on ‘Mascara’, the Instagram babe using her looks to get ahead is freed from poverty and trapped by male desire; defiant and smart against criticism, insecure and desperate to maintain her position. “These bitches stay mad cuz they’re working so hard while I’m working so smart,” she argues, but Sullivan conveys the wearying labour of beauty in her sighs. The crux of the song comes in the one line Sullivan allows her voice to crack: “Don’t I deserve to be privileged?” she asks on behalf of everyone born without it. (more…)
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