Where is Jazmine Sullivan? Is she still making music? Did she quit the business? Questions and rumours like these have been floating amongst fans and the blogosphere the past four years about the Grammy-nominated songstress.
“I was going through a lot with the ex relationship and I kind of had to take a step back and get myself together. I think it was worth it; I definitely appreciate what I do now more,” explains Sullivan.
Sullivan, who last released an album in 2010, is back with a new project entitled, Reality Show. For her, the timing was just right; what was supposed to be a short break turned into four long years that needed to end.
“I can’t believe time has gotten away from me. [I said to myself] I have to start sharing this stuff and talking about it and getting myself through the process,” says a retrospective Sullivan.
The album is a soulful blend of personal tribulations and cleverly crafted observations on society. The Philadelphia native, who admits her guilty pleasure for the past few years has been watching a lot of episodes of VH1’s “Love & Hip Hop”, came to realize the power of the term “reality show”. With the release of this album, she created three behind-the-scenes webisodes that gave fans access to her life like never before.
“I’m addicted to reality TV, I’ve watched them all and I see the effects that showing more of yourself has on fans; they feel more connected to you so I felt like this is my way of letting people know a little more of myself and the album,” shares Sullivan.
Reality Show displays Sullivan’s signature sound that is both honest and emotional, and sure to be pleasing to her fans. Never one to shy away from expressing her love life, Sullivan shares it all on the single “Forever Don’t Last”.
“[That] was one of the more personal songs… It’s ’cause I was really speaking from the heart and soul and crying out. Kind of just trying to sing my way through how I was feeling. I was really dealing with a break up and having to let someone go and I know that everybody deals with it, and I know it needed to sound like it. It needed to sound emotional like that for people to connect to it,” reflects Sullivan.
“It just felt like with this particular album, with coming back, it had to be this way. I had to be involved in every little thing; I swear this album drove me crazy.” – Jazmine Sullivan
But it wasn’t just love, or the lack there of, that was on her mind. During some of those most difficult times, Sullivan, who comes from a religious family and grew up singing in church, contemplated using drugs.
“I felt like when I was having those thoughts I was so far gone,” admits Sullivan. She adds jokingly, “I’m glad that I had that revelation before I went down. I was making a joke about it [the other day] ’cause I’m so far removed from it now… People that know me know that if I did drugs, I’d be the craziest person ever, ’cause I’m already crazy! But it did inspire some songs.”
Aside from sharing some of her own personal trials and times of despair, Sullivan, who served as the primary songwriter on the project, embraces her role as a storyteller on several songs. She introduces some thought provoking reflections on tracks like, “Mascara”, “#HoodLove”, “Brand New” and “Stupid Girl”, which appear as snapshots into the workings of present day society and culture. For example, “Mascara”, which she recently released an accompanying video for, is a masterfully written song highlighting Sullivan’s observations on today’s social media obsessed culture.
“I wrote [“Mascara”] because I was looking on Instagram at a bunch of video girls’ pages and their lives kind of look identical,” explains Sullivan. She adds with a little bit of laughter in her voice, “Just like, butt shots, pictures of their bodies and how they’re living – going on trips and stuff like that – and I was like, ‘this is what people are looking at and aspiring to?’”
She stresses that she is not trying to pass off judgement on how those women live their lives, but she is glad that people are starting to question and become unhappy with the high expectations social and mass media create, particularly for women. She hopes that people understand she is just a storyteller, sharing what she sees.
Reality Show may be Jazmine Sullivan’s most honest work yet. Taking a more hands-on approach with this project than previous ones, she tells real, powerful and reflective stories from start to finish.
“It just felt like with this particular album, with coming back, it had to be this way. I had to be involved in every little thing; I swear this album drove me crazy,” she says laughing. “I couldn’t stop fixing things on it. The label was actually like, ‘that’s enough, no more!’ Coming back was a personal thing for me; I left for too long.”
Photos Courtesy Of: Shane McCauley