Released 9/23/08 on J Records
Many have said that “Hip-Hop is dead” and that R&B is on life support, waiting for the plug to be pulled. Turning on the radio, you are likely to hear a singer with elementary lyrics and minimal vocal talent, using auto-tune. Enter Jazmine Sullivan, a complete departure to the aforementioned, hoping to take R&B back to its roots of powerful vocals,meaningful lyrics and stand-out production with her debut album Fearless. Sullivan, at the relatively young age of 21, is proving that she can help R&B to breathe on its own.
Like many legendary R&B/soul artists before her, including Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston and Marvin Gaye, Jazmine first began singing in the church choir at the tender age of 5. She later made her first television appearance on “Showtime at the Apollo” and at age 15 was signed to Jive Records. The stint at Jive didn’t last, but she did meet her mentor there. Missy Elliot, who executively produced Fearless, helped to create Sullivan’s style which encompasses elements of hip-hop, reggae, gospel and vintage soul.
Fearlessopens with the angry and embittered “Bust Your Windows”, a song that could have been written by Angela Bassett’s character, Bernadine from the movie “Waiting to Exhale”. It is the tale of the coming together of a broken heart, a crowbar and a nice car, which is never a good combination. Lyrically, it is what you would expect, but vocally Jazmine sings with such pain and conviction that you’ll want to pick up a crowbar and break someone’s windows.
Next up is the inspirational electro-pop synth-driven “Dream Big”, encouraging everyone to follow and take a chance on their dreams. Following "Dream Big" is Jazmine’s number one debut single “Need U Bad” produced by Missy Elliot. The Caribbean/reggae-themed song and vocal arrangement brought many comparison to Lauryn Hill and could have easily been a bonus track from The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Though she writes and produces much of her music like Lauryn, this song is where the comparisons end.
“My Foolish Heart”, sampled from GZA of Wu-Tang Clan’s classic “Liquid Swords”, tells of the things one will do for love and brings a hip-hop element to the album. Next is the beautifully string-arranged “Lions, Tigers and Bears,“ where Jazmine bears her soul and shows that that love is the one and only thing she fears.
This album wouldn’t be an R&B album without a song by production duo Stargate (“With You,” “Irreplaceable”) and Jazmine takes her turn with “Hurricane,“ a song about the devastating effects love can have and the damage it often leaves behind.
The album does begin to wane a bit with “One Night Stand,” “Dream Big” and “Live a Lie.“ Never fear, though, as morale begins to pick up as the album comes to a close with stand-outs including the piano driven “In Love with Another Man,” the truthful and honest “Fear” and whimsical “Switch.“
Ultimately, Fearlessis a solid start for a promising and gifted vocalist with a bright future ahead. Jazmine is a much needed departure from what has been polluting the airwaves. The 5 time Grammy nominee may be one of the few artists who can achieve longevity in the fickle music industry, but only if she continues to remain "Fearless.”
Find out more about Jazmine at www.jazminesullivanmusic.com
Jazmine Sullivan was featured as the 88.1 WKNC Pick of the Week on 10/7/08.
88.1 WKNC DJ Pick of the Week is published in every Tuesday print edition of the Technician, as well as online at technicianonline.com and wknc.org.