Jazmine Sullivan – Reality Show
I’ve gone through periods where R&B singers – actually mainly pop singers appropriating R&B, but still – have really annoyed me. Oddly, it’s the same sort of annoyance I feel for people who think Yngwie Malmsteen is a knockout guitarist: it’s that idea that technical impressiveness is somehow the sole arbiter of artistic worth. “Oh look at me, I can play lightning-fast sweep arpeggios!”. “Oh look at the range of my voice and how long I can put my hand to my ear, close my eyes, and have my melisma orgasm in your face!”. Well, so what? I mean, kudos to you for getting that sort of skill level with your chosen instrument, but why should I want to listen to it over, say, a really great lo-fi garage rock song? Unless I’m an aspiring shred guitarist or oversinging diva, I suppose.
That’s what I enjoy about Reality Show, and Jazmine Sullivan in general. She has the pipes – lord knows she can hold her own – but she doesn’t go out of her way to prove it constantly. She steps back and lets these songs speak for themselves, favouring what she’s singing about over how she’s singing it. When a stomping track like the opening “Dumb” or something gritty and street-level like “#HoodLove” connect, it’s not because her voice is the main focus, it’s the song. It makes moments in which she really let’s loose, like the impassioned “Forever Don’t Last”, much more visceral and electrifying. The highwater mark here, however, is “Stupid Girl”, an update of undeniable Motown soul that gets in and out in a very slinky three minutes. To think she almost bailed on music for good in 2011. I’m glad she decided that it was fun after all.