Album review: Jazmine Sullivan - Heaux Tales

Album review: Jazmine Sullivan - Heaux Tales | Random J Pop

Jazmine Sullivan is one of those rude bitches. The type with incredible talent who drop albums once every 84 years. Her, Brandy, Hikaru Utada. All rude bitches.

Jazmine's last album Reality Show was released 6 (+78) years ago. And as we entered the second season of 2020 fresh off of what was a wholly disastrous and trash year for everybody except that Amazon man with the refrigerator magnet looking-ass eye, that Facebook man with the comic book villain hairline, and Grimes' baby father, Jazmine graced us with some new music. Only, it wasn't a full length album.

Jazmine Sullivan has been reluctant to call Heaux Tales an EP. Instead referring to it as a 'project'. But bitch, this is absolutely an EP. There is nothing wrong with an EP. Just call it what it is. But Heaux Tales also happens to be a concept EP. And whilst as a fan who has waited 84 years for Jazmine to release an album, just to be met with an EP could seem deflating, Heaux Tales is a meal. Jazmine still gives you all of her, but in a different way that we're used to. Because these stories aren't just hers, but that of other women.

Album review: Jazmine Sullivan - Heaux Tales | Random J Pop

Heaux Tales features spoken accounts of women talking about their experiences in relationships, to which Jazmine then reframes and tells through song. These tales are from women in Jazmine's life whom she respects; friends, colleagues, her mother's close friends. Interludes on albums seldom feel necessary, but here, the tales are as necessary as the songs. After all, they are the impetus of each of them. Jazmine absolutely could have just released a 6 track album with the songs and it'd still be fire. Every song is vivid, and Jazmine doesn't mince any of her words on any of the songs. But hearing a woman speak to her truth and her feelings beforehand helps build a world in which to frame the songs. It also provides a platform to voices that aren't always given one, even though many of us may have people in our lives like those highlighted in the tales themselves. The person in these tales could be your friend, your parent, your aunt, your boss. The tales are the heart of this album and the songs are the decoration, but one without the other just wouldn't be the same. It's so masterfully done. It's like Jazmine is scoring a documentary. I hope she considers a Heaux Tales film, something she'd tweeted Issa Rae about

Jazmine isn't known for having a great deal of guest features for albums, but Heaux Tales features three. The entire album in itself is a collaboration, which is what makes the artist collabs feel so seamless and that much more meaningful. Not to mention Jazmine made great calls. Some singers would be intimidated to feature on a song with somebody as vocally virtuosic as Jazmine Sullivan, but H.E.R and Ari Lennox are built different. Not only do they show a love and respect for Jazmine, but they are both so confident in their own lanes and in their own artistry that THAT is what they bring to the table. Also, each one of them has such a different vibe vocally, but share one thing, which is speaking to truth through music. Back to Jazmine making great calls, both Ari Lennox and H.E.R feature on songs which feel close to what they would release themselves.

Album review: Jazmine Sullivan - Heaux Tales | Random J Pop

There is no way I can talk about a Jazmine Sullivan album and not talk about her fucking vocals. Jazmine has one of the best voices in R&B right now. Shit. I'd even go as far as to say she has one of the best voices in all the music right now. Jazmine is a perfect example of how being able to sing is more than about being able to hit notes. Jazmine does a lot on certain songs, whilst sounding like she's also not doing much at all - especially if you're somebody knows the range Jazmine possesses. Jazmine is a master at knowing where to place her runs and belts. So often singers will just run and riff for the sake of it, completely overpowering the song top the point where you're pulled out of it. Exhibit A: Christina Aguilera. Jazmine always manages to place her vocal flourish moments in places where they fit best, and in many cases become so key to the song. A great example is on "Pick Up Your Feelings" where Jazmine adds a run in between 'Pick up your' and 'feelings'. It's so perfectly placed, that you can't sing that line of the song without imitating the run itself. There are so many moments on Heaux Tales like this. Jazmine truly is a masterclass singer. She could sing terms and conditions, absolutely kill it, and make me feel like they cheated on me and force me to get my shit together. I mean...who is SANGIN' songs about sitting on a dick and getting their pussy spat on?

Jazmine is known primarily for her amazing voice, but what she's is also great at is songwriting. Jazmine has always had a knack for writing songs that speak true to life and really hit, but Heaux Tales has Jazmine flex in ways lyrically that she hasn't before. There's a broadness in scope that we get with this album. I guess we should have expected it, when you consider the journey from Fearless to Reality Show, and now Heaux Tales. But the beauty in the songs is the earnestness and the way in which Jazmine is able to channel the energies. "Put It Down" is very much a boss bitch song about being a Suga Mama, but making sure your man keeps up his dick deposits. It's the kind of song you can imagine women throwing dollar bills up to in the club whilst men work poles for the paper. It's such a fun, light-hearted song. Where-as "The Other Side" is a flip, and about a woman wanting a rich man to be her ticket to the good life. But Jazmine doesn't make light of the subject matter and writes a really earnest song about a girl who just wants better for herself. There is no malice, ill will or judgement in the song whatsoever. In fact, it's a really beautifully written song that will have you think 'Yo, I think this is what I actually want'. Especially at a time like now when the world is on fire and every day feels like a struggle, with so many in states of uncertainty as to whether they'll be able to make rent and risking their lives to get paid. It really hits.

Jazmine cements that she's more than just a songwriter. She's a story teller.

Album review: Jazmine Sullivan - Heaux Tales | Random J Pop

Heaux Tales is a great body of work, and the best way for Jazmine to return after so long. There's a level of comfort that you feel in it as a fan, but also a sense of Jazmine not being the same person that she was before. There's this new energy that Jazmine has which comes through in not just what she's singing about but how she's singing it. 10 years ago I couldn't imagine Jazmine doing a song like "Put It Down" and "On It", but it feels so right for her now. There's an air of confidence in every single song on this album. Maybe part of basing the songs on the stories of other women was the outlet Jazmine needed to push herself out of her comfort zone and into singing about different types of things.

The only issue I have with Heaux Tales is that it ends with a song like "Girl Like Me". It's a great song, but it doesn't feel like an ending. "The Other Side" would have made a far better album closer.

Heaux Tales is 100% an EP. But it feels so fleshed out and provides such a top to bottom experience that there's no way you can hold its length against it. In fact, I adore this format so much, that I hope Jazmine plays around with it a little more. Not every release has to be an LP. And I could totally go for a Heaux Tales 2.


■ Bodies (Intro)
■ Pick Up Your Feelings
■ Put It Down
■ The Other Side 🏆 J's fave
■ Girl Like Me