First Impressions: Jazmine Sullivan Is Still 'Fearless' On 'Love Me Back'

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

There were two songs on Jazmine Sullivan's 2008 debut, Fearless, that made me really root for her. Those two songs were "Lion, Tigers, and Bears" and "In Love With Another Man". The former became an R&B darling that sort of got sideswiped by the more prolific battle cry of "Bust Your Windows". The latter closed out Fearless with an impeccable emotional rollercoaster of bare bones vocals. There was something about Fearless and its singles that marked Sullivan as one of the R&B dames that was worth giving a damn about. So here we are at album #2, Love Me Back, and Jazmine has won most over yet again with it's first two singles, "Holdin' You Down (Going In Circles)" and "10 Seconds". Yet, Sullivan faces getting over that "dreaded" second album, as her debut is still pretty much fresh on everyone's mind.

Like on Fearless, Sullivan is still grappling with fame, insecurities and of course, the menfolk, whilst still trying to keep it together. She's got a lot on her plate, and she's gotta a lot to say...and she does a lot of sangin'. Not singing. Sangin'. Two years after her debut, Sullivan's voice has become much more instrumental in her sound, in fact, it sometimes outclasses the material on here and it proves that Sullivan is in it to win it. Producer Salaam Remi is back on board from the debut, with Ne-Yo, Chuck Harmony, and Toby Gad adding their magic to the mix, and they all give Jazmine lots of wiggle room to really let her vocals be the focal point of each track. Love Me Back starts out fantastically strong with the boldness of her first two singles, and "10 Seconds" really leading the two. Even though I've been playing it in a loop for some time now, it's still quite an effective song. It's one of  the best threats in a love song...can there even be a threatening love song? I don't know, but Sullivan really bites into her lover, making him sit down and shut up...

Things keep churning as a Prince vibe emerges on "Good Enough", which has single material smeared all over it. "Don't Make Me Wait" is a production dream thanks to Los da Mystro, who gives a real unshakeable 80's synth groove to match with Sullivan's eager vocals and takes it back to a time to when dance grooves really mattered. There are more shimmering songs of note, such as the yearning "Famous", which particularly captured my attention along with the brooding "Redemption" that hints at Sullivan tackling more heavy-handed material. There are few minor hits n' misses, such as the clunky "Stuttering" which sort of goes in all directions as it progresses. Ne-Yo pops up to vocalize with Sullivan on "U Get On My Nerves" which is designed to be "Bust Your Windows Part Deux", yet it comes off quite flat.  

I mentioned awhile back that I think Jazmine Sullivan has what it takes to be the next Mary J. Blige. She's got the "provoked by anger" vibe to prove it. Though I do agree with one Adventurer who pointed out that Ms. Blige had a one-two knockout punch just from her first two albums (1992's What's The 411? and 1993's My Life) and Jazmine has been just bubbling at the surface. From really indulging Love Me Back, I still think she has a shot, considering how Blige isn't even herself nowadays, but from just hearing it in her voice. Sullivan really isn't pandering to her audience and shows a robust attitude, which gets Brownie points in my book.

Still she has some ways to go. Love Me Back, pretty much highlights what we love about Jazmine, but does what a sophomore album tends to do and that is recapture elements from the debut, and eases on down the middle road without branching out to other avenues. Hopefully, by Sullivan's third entry (yes, I'm getting ahead of myself) she can brush up some of her mistakes and then really knock it out of the ballpark. 

Rating: 8.3/10
Release Date: November 30, 2010


  1. "Don't Make Me Wait" is the burn it down jam of the year. Can't. Take. Off. Repeat.

    (Great review, PS.)

  2. "Don't Make Me Wait" is the business, one of my favorite cuts off of here. She must release it as a single.

    And thanks!


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