It was around this time four years ago that our beloved Jazmine Sullivan announced that she was leaving her music career behind to find out “who i am… w/out a mike, paper or pen.” While that time away might have done the singer some good, it left music lovers with an extreme deficit in the R&B category. But thankfully, Jazmine returned to her music career last year with a handful of singles and news that she had a new album on the way. And while those singles were definitely quality, they did nothing to prepare us for what Jazzy had in store with her Reality Show. Her return to the scene is not only a triumphant one, but it also shows how well the singer has used her time away.
The album starts with the military drum cadence of Meek Mill-featuring “Dumb,” a vinegar valentine to a lover that isn’t smart enough to cover up his tracks. While the track revisits a theme that she’s sang about before on her single “Bust Your Windows,” “Dumb” showcases the singer’s evolved maturity. She’s not into breaking your property, but she won’t be played. It’s a mature outlook that’s conveyed throughout the rest of the album. Take next track “Mascara,” for instance. The Key Wane-produced number finds Jazzy flexing her pen game as she takes on the role of a kept woman working to maintain her spot. While it’d be easy to judge someone in her position, Jazmine imparts humanity to the character, showing that looks can definitely be deceiving.
Her songwriting is something that singer wields well here. She had a hand in writing each song, and it shows. Each track seems to find the singer trying on different characters and expressing the various intricacies of their lives. On the jazzy, hip hop-driven “Brand New,” she’s a jilted lover lamenting her rap star boyfriend blowing up and moving on. On “#HoodLove” she’s a down-ass chick carrying a .45 in her Louis bag and holding her man down over knocking Chuck Harmony production. Later, on “Veins,” she’s a down and out woman addicted to the love her man’s giving her on the regular.
As willing as she is to take on different roles, she’s also willing to traverse through different genres, decades and styles here. While the optimistic “Silver Lining” is an optimistic slice of R&B heaven, she nods to early ‘9os R&B on “Let It Burn,” complete with a sample of After 7‘s “Ready or Not,” ventures into twangy folk on “Forever Don’t Last,” channels ’80s stadium pop on “Masterpiece (Mona Lisa),” becomes a disco diva on “Stanley” and does psychedelic ’60s soul on the advisory track “Stupid Girl” and inspirational closer “If You Dare.” Normally, such a wild array of styles being featured on a album would make the project sound disjointed, but here it all blends seamlessly, taking the listener on an enjoyable musical ride full of emotion, drama and self-acceptance.
When Jazmine first arrived on the scene, she had the problem that many young singers with remarkable voices have: the material didn’t quite match the talent. With Reality Show, though Jazmine reigns in her voice a bit (save for the soaring “Forever Don’t Last”), that’s not the case. Here, the singer’s voice is sharp and distinct both vocally and in the writing of the songs. Yes, the producers here — including those mentioned, Da Internz and longtime collaborator Salaam Remi — do more than their part in making sure she has amazing music to back her, it’s Jazmine’s voice and unique approach to storytelling that really makes these songs sing. She laces them with enough realness and raw emotion that will be sure to make this one Reality Show that you’ll keep coming back to.