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There aren’t many voices that have been missed in R&B over the past half decade the way Jazmine Sullivan’s has been. Legitimately one of the most powerful songstresses of her generation, it has been quiet album-wise since the 2015 release of “Reality Show”, but here 2021 we receive the bold and aptly named “Heaux Tales”
Despite her obvious talent in the vocal department, we’ve seen many times where vocal talent does not correlate to great music, but on Heaux Tales, Sullivan seems to have poured every ounce of talent she possesses into crafting one of the most fascinating narratives seen from an album in a long time. The album is as honest and heartfelt as Sullivan’s voice itself and shows how much brilliance can be trapped inside of an artist due to personal struggles.
Around the release of the album Sullivan spoke openly about the concept of “worthiness” and how her life has influenced all parts of this album. In the context of this project worthiness doesn’t just refer to a worthiness of simply being loved but a worthiness to be able to define what that love should look and feel like. That being the seemingly inescapable message of this project, you, regardless of who you are, can and should be able to enjoy not just love, not just your body but the entirety of yourself.
The bulk of this album is carried solo by Sullivan to incredible effect, but the “Pick up Your Feelings” singer has no problem incorporating the talents of others. The album doesn’t have many featuring artists but the ones included show the thought and time put into their selection. “On it” featuring Ari Lennox, uses a slow melodic beat to bring out a truly inspired performance that includes the lyrics “Wetter than the whole Chesapeake Bay” which should win this album the R&B Grammy by itself. The Anderson Paak featured song “Price Tags” makes better use of his skill than most of the Silk Sonic album, because Jazmine gives him room on the song to be truly creative with his flow. However, of all songs with featured guests, it is the duet performance with fellow Grammy nominated artist H.E.R that steals the show. The guitar melody creates a backdrop for both women to use their considerable talent and range to paint the canvas of the song in one of the year’s best tracks regardless of genre.
Above all, Heaux Tales is unflinching, it doesn’t allow itself to become bogged down by fear of how it’s content will be taken. It doesn’t have time to cater to an audience that won’t engage with the material in good faith anyway. It’s an album about women’s sexuality, love, abuse and it refuses to stray from it’s core message of worthiness the entire runtime.