Jazmine Sullivan – “Fearless”
Album Score: B+
Here’s the album that everyone who recognizes good music and great vocal talent have been waiting for. Jazmine Sullivan’s debut album “Fearless” is here! The silky voiced vocal-riff powerhouse tries to cram all that talent into 74 minutes and while vocally she doesn’t disappoint throughout the entire project, content and flow-wise, there’s a little something to be desired.
Full review after the jump!
When Jazmine gets it right, watch out, because she is the one to beat. After writing for others over the years (including “Say I” as sung by Christina Milian) and waiting patiently for her turn, Jazmine roared onto the scene with the Lauryn Hill-channeling cut “Need U Bad”. The perfect introductory single, it introduced her mellifluous vocal range and uncanny knack for melisma and musical bravado, which hadn’t been seen in the R&B marketplace for a LONG time. Other songs began to leak such as the A++ “In Love With Another Man” (which reportedly was the song that she sung and lead to her being signed to her record deal) and “Bust Your Windows”, which takes revenge and payback to another level not seen since Al Green was plastered with hot grits. Indeed, Jazmine is a songwriter at heart and on the above mentioned tracks, her pen is as powerful as her pipes.
It’s after you get through the leaked songs mentioned above that the album begins to drag. Granted, Jazmine could sing the phonebook and it would sound great. Her jazzy, gospel-tinged vocals are a treat for the ears irregardless of what she sings. One would hope however for a more continuous feel from the album. It feels top-loaded with all her “potential to be hit” songs first, then smattered with other songs that feel a little thrown in for good measure. It causes one to wonder the timeline of all the songs recorded. Jazmine has been awaiting a release date and opportunity to shine for years, and I think the previously mentioned songs had more polish than some others.
Lyrically, Jazmine doesn’t disappoint throughout. Having co-written every track on the album, she connects with each and every one of the songs and it leads to a powerfully emotionally connective work. On the poignant track “Lions, Tigers & Bears,” she sings about her fears of love and parallels that into how she’s not afraid to sing at “a sold out affair” but afraid to love her significant other. It’s songs and lyrics like this in which Jazmine paints such a vivid picture for you through her music, and it’s exciting because I can’t think of a recent female R&B singer that has accomplished such a feat. On “In Love With Another Man”, Jazmine vocals are showcased alongside with the powerful lyrics and it’s a 1-2 punch that knocks you out but keeps you coming back for more. Every note is sung to completion; every phrase is finished with an over-the-top yet perfectly executed vocal flair; and the song builds into such intensity that ends with a powerful falsetto note that wraps the song up into one complete musical package. The latin-swing of the Salaam Remi-assisted “Bust Your Windows” sets the standard for sassiness and redefines the saying “a woman scorned”. Jazmine comes out swinging, both literally and figuratively. An excellent ode to the woman’s psyche, Jazmine once again sketches a picture lyrically, paints it aurally and frames it for us with her supple attention to detail on the background vocals. Just excellent.
Some of the weaker songs deaden and slow down the album however. “My Foolish Heart” feels like a disjointed tossback to the “classical soul” raspiness of Jazmine’s vocals. While not bad, it just seems a little random — a forced nod to an era that her voice seems to naturally hail from. “Call Me Guilty” throws subtlelty out the window, which Jazmine does so well. “Dream Big” also could have been left on the cutting room floor as it doesn’t seem to flow with the rest of the album either, though no doubt it has emotional value for Jazmine.
Vocally, she’s here to save R&B and soul music. We’ve not had a “singer’s singer” to come onto the national stage in a quite a while, and music fans have eagerly been anticipating the arrival of Jazmine. She’s here, she’s a vocal beast, and she’s sure to be around for a long time. Future outings from Jazmine are sure to show more maturity and confidence and oh boy, is she going to be something else. The recent arrival of albums my Jennifer Hudson and Jazmine will hopefully reverse the trend for non-singers blowing up on the main stage. With the industry in such a decline, one would wonder why there aren’t more Jazmine’s putting out new music. Let’s support her and hope for more!