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Jazmine Sullivan: Heaux Tales

By Andy Kellman |

Jazmine Sullivan appeared to be nearing the release of a follow-up to Reality Show in August 2020 with the arrival of "Lost One," a welcomed disturbance in a post-Reality Show string of featured appearances, songwriting commissions, and compilation contributions.

The bare and forlorn ballad was trailed three months later by the sneering and swaggering Pick Up Your Feelings another lean and efficient number with lyrics that read like straight talk and vocals that raise goose bumps. Heaux Tales, classified by Sullivan as an EP, landed the following January. The first two singles fall into the sequence with preceding spoken segments that relate to the lyrics in frank, uninhibited style. Almost all of the five other proper songs are similarly introduced with women discussing matters such as sexual and materialistic desire, power dynamics, rejection, and negative body image. Sullivan and her fellow writers likewise approach each of them from the perspective related in the interludes.

Heaux Tales accordingly contains some of the singer's boldest verses. Ari Lennox's poetic revelation seems to impel her through Put It Down, a sleek and tongue-twisting ode to a partner's bedroom prowess, and On It a Lennox-assisted soul-blues duet in which the curse words aren't half as strong as the threats and instructions. Talk about financial insecurity leads to the downcast and aspirational The Other Side; just when Sullivan couldn't sound more despondent, she turns on the subtle humor with Soccer mom gettin' wasted/Hermès tennis bracelet/Bora Bora for vacation/I'll be anything but basic, sung like the thoughts of a suburbanite who escapes her unfulfilling life by listening obsessively to Rick Ross.

Sullivan also throws an unapologetic pity party with H.E.R. on Girl Like Me, a cathartic if down way to finish it off. The one male role is filled by Anderson .Paak, who in the low-key Southern funk of Pricetags can't resist getting played (a scenario rather different from the tryst illustrated on .Paak's Sullivan-supported Ventura track Good Heels). Given the brevity and makeup -- just over half an hour, with only 27 minutes of music -- Heaux Tales doesn't have the heft of Fearless, Love Me Back, or Reality Show, but few contemporary R&B LPs twice its length are as substantive.


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