After a six year hiatus, Jazmine Sullivan made her comeback to R&B with EP ‘Heaux Tales’. A project about independence and sexual openness, ‘Heaux Tales’ is an exquisite listen and a fierce display of female empowerment.
Sullivan uses spoken word interludes to break up the project, introducing each chapter of the album like a novel. ‘Antoinette’s Tale’ perfectly prefaces one of the best songs on the album ‘Pick Up Your Feelings’. The track is signature Jazmine Sullivan- dangerously soulful vocals, met by raw and honest lyrics that convey a kind of emotion that you can only find in an R&B ballad. “You say that I’ve been actin’ different, yeah / Funny how I finally flipped the script on you”, is reminiscent of Sullivan’s most famous single ‘Bust Your Windows’.
Sullivan has never been one to glorify relationships, in ‘Bust Your Windows’, she spun a tale of finding her partner in bed with another woman. R&B is a genre built on these declarations of anger, love and pain. ‘Heaux Tales’, embodies this early style yet its features with Ari Lennox, Anderson .Paak and H.E.R. marry it perfectly to the new wave- a subsection of R&B that is more mainstream and palatable.
Passion is high on track number six. ‘On It’, featuring Lennox- finds the singers detailing their desires to their lovers. Sullivan and Lennox consider society’s unwritten rules of how women should behave. The song is sultry, sexy and the singers hues blend together seamlessly.
Aided by the soulful backdrop of Sullivan’s vocals, Paak brings his signature funk infused R&B to track number eight and adds a lustful twist. On ‘Pricetags’ Sullivan considers the way sex can turn into a material transaction- “That’s right, reach down and pull the cash out / Make me love you, take your last out”. .Paak plays off such materialism in the third verse.
‘Lost Ones’ sees Sullivan admit her shortcomings in a confession of betrayal. “Just don’t have to much fun without me / Please don’t forget about me”, Sullivan pleads over a shallow echoing guitar rhythm.
On ‘Girl Like Me’, Sullivan reminds us that above all else she’s a storyteller, it isn’t just her voice that remains powerful but every word that she utters- “Knew it was real when you blocked me / And I would sit at home judging my body”. The track features H.E.R. and ties the albums themes together in an ethereal finale that sees the singers voices melt together over a handful of descending guitar chords.
Making such a highly anticipated comeback was never going to be an easy feat but Sullivan made it look effortless. ‘Heaux Tales’ definitely warmed up a bleak winter and confidently set the tone for R&B for 2021.
Text by: Vanessa Valentine