Jazmine Sullivan Love Me Back album review
Usually a girl asking you to love her back is in clear need of a self-esteem boost, but Jazmine Sullivan’s sophomore effort, Love Me Back, is far from a desperate beseechment for affection. It’s more of a commandment. The 11-track album opens with lead single, “Holding You Down (Going in Circles).” The crafty – and undoubtedly royalty-heavy – is a sample-rich ode to the early days of Hip-Hop that follows Sullivan as she runs herself ragged chasing after a bad boyfriend like a dog chases its tail.
While the wondrous yet volatile world of love is an overarching theme of the album, it doesn’t spend the next hour wallowing in a stew of self-pity and despair. Any uncertainty Sullivan feels about ditching her shady boyfriend washes away with “10 Seconds,” the album’s second single, as she gives her trifling partner limited time to get the hell out. The song furthers the old school trajectory that permeates much of the album. However, it does so with a decidedly R & B feel that may actually be a sample of the Rose Royce classic, “I’m Going Down,” (later covered by Mary J. Blige).
Love Me Back isn’t all heartache and sass, however. Sullivan and producer Salaam Remi have some fun on the Prince-era inspired “Don’t Make Me Wait,” with its lyrical shout out to 80’s glam goddesses, Vanity 6. Sullivan manages to ease us out of party mode with some unique slow jams, including the piano laced “Stuttering,” and “U Get on My Nerves,” a duet with Ne-Yo in which the crooner manages to do a decent job keeping up with his muse.
The album is full of other standout tracks, including “Famous.” In it Sullivan, who had initially been dropped by Jive before signing to J Records, admits with brutal and heart-wrenching honesty her consuming desire to make it to the big time. The song itself could easily be the title theme to a biopic of any number tragic starlets who have succumb to the beguiling evils of Hollywood.
Another is “Redemption,” in which Sullivan artfully tells the story of a crack addict, and even does a role reversal in the second verse as an abusive boyfriend. While the beats are drastically different, the song’s imagery invokes memories of Outkast’s “Da Art of Storytellin’” and Left Eye’s rap from the male perspective in TLC’s “Kick Your Game.”
Where Sullivan has the most fun on the album however is on its Caribbean-tinged servings. “Love Me Long Time” and the album’s closer, “Luv Back,” show that the Philadelphia native hasn’t lost her love of island jams.
However, Sullivan’s vocal tonality may be an acquired taste for some, as her voice, though huskier, is akin to the more nasal offerings of Michelle Williams, of Destiny’s Child fame. Also, at times, the hefty number of old school sounds may make you wish the album sounded a little more like something from this millennium, rather than the last. While the album as a whole is far superior to her debut effort, Fearless, it’s clear that we’ve yet to see the full potential of Sullivan’s craft.
Even with that criticism, Love Me Back is not only a sumptuous album worthy of your hard-earned money, but it is also one of those increasingly rare albums you can pop in and let ride out from beginning to end. Don’t worry about us loving you back Jazzy. After this album, we already do.
Love Me Back receives a PARL
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