Sullivan’s second album is an instant and self-assured blast of a record.
Natalie Shaw 2010-12-01
While Philly-born popstress Jazmine Sullivan is a relative unknown here in the UK, her career in the US is thriving. Her debut album Fearless received seven Grammy nominations, and it’s no surprise for the way she slaughters the microphone. Sullivan has produced one of 2010’s highlights in the ever-urgent Love Me Back; it’s a person exposed, emotionally fragmented and delivered with verve.
She takes typical relationship-based thought processes, psychoanalyses herself in their context, and whips her emotions up to make a whole – an album of mixed emotions from an over-thinking human. There’s often a lack of setting to these scenarios, giving the stories a more universal clarity untainted by specific personal details, a lucidity.
The songs belong together, as dimensions of her unshielded self-scrutiny. But it’s no hard-times therapy album, as there’s fun aplenty. Sullivan breezes through vintage late-80s Whitney on ode to Prince (and album highlight) Don’t Make Me Wait, in which she talks about getting her Vanity 6 on – and it's this sort of fun-times clinch that really seals the deal.
Whether it’s as an obsessed girlfriend on Love You Long Time with its addictive confederate drum-beats, or a nervous wreck on Stuttering, Sullivan’s emotions are ever put on the line. The mad variation in influences is effortless too, throwing back to Angie Stone, Stevie Wonder and Jill Scott among others.
Love Me Back is fearful, but more explorative so than her debut Fearless – it’s a face-level questioning, a thought process siphoned out of Sullivan’s mind. Bits of the story often unfold with the songs, such as on 10 Seconds, where the chorus counts down the time her ex has to pack his bags. And the album is no less subtly urgent elsewhere; its explicit title is a symbol for the singer’s exuberance.
On Famous, she questions why everyone doesn’t want to be just that: "I wanna matter to the world / To a girl watching me on TV / Watching me and I want her to wanna be me." And she gets away with this boldness not as a let-off, but instead as someone who understands her own mind. Love Me Back is worth so much more than the future classic tag it’s been lumped with – it’s an instant and self-assured blast of a record, its maker a new star to love.