It’s a rainy Monday (Jan. 12) afternoon in New York City, but a feeling of joy is in the air at Platinum Recording Studios. It’s been nearly four years since soulful chanteuse, Jazmine Sullivan, released her critically acclaimed album Love Me Back and gracefully bowed out of the spotlight, professing that the stigma of celebrity was too much to bear. But today is her day, her moment of truth if you will. With 24 hours before the release of her hotly awaited third studio album, Reality Show, the pressure is on but Sullivan’s vibe is chillingly cool as she waves and flashes a smile to a few press participants in the lobby of the recording studio, vanishing down a dark hall way lit by candles and followed by her glam team and record label reps.
After 45 minutes of industry schmoozing and champagne a tall man announces her arrival bellowing, “Welcome Ms. Jazmine Sullivan.” The intimate crowd parts the studio floor like the Red Sea and Sullivan sashays her way to a single stool alongside her guitarist as the room roars with applause. “Hey y’all,” the North Philly native bashfully says. “I’m a tad bit under the weather but we’re still rocking today,” she explains as she pulls her trench coat closer to her concealing her enviable Jessica Rabbit curves covered by a fitted red dress.
“My eyes ain’t used to these rays/I’m feeling exposed but I can’t hide no more, I can’t hide/As the sun shines on all of my glory my flaws don’t look so bad at all/What was I so afraid of?” Sullivan smoothly sings on the self-assured and rehabilitating track “Masterpiece (Mona Lisa)”. This isn’t the same chick that was busting out car windows or claiming she was regrettably in love with another man, no. Three minutes into the acoustic performance and it’s apparent that the 27-year-old has matured. With not a single dry eye in the house, Jazmine divulges her emotions, fears, and optimism towards many things, one being love and the most important of all, self-love.
While many fall short when pursuing a comeback, Sullivan proves to be a contender. Hiatus, who? Jazmine serves us the same good ole’ raspy and robust vocals that captured our hearts when she first emerged on the music scene, but her delivery has evolved into that of a confident woman. Contrary to the title, Reality Show is empowering, refreshing and thought provoking. Four years and 12 anointed tracks later, Sullivan’s time capsule of emotions has given life to a remarkable album that is sure to have everyone singing her praises.
The powerhouse vocalist graciously sat with VIBE Vixen for an intimiate session of Vixen Chat to fill us in on what’s been going on in her world. Continue clicking as she spills the tea on her new album Reality Show and more.
Photo Credit(s): Twitter, Getty Images
VIBE Vixen: Back in 2011 you declared that you were leaving the music industry, which left many fans confused since your second album “Love Me Back” was so well received. Since then you’ve shared your reasons on leaving, but can you further expound upon what pushed you to that choice?
Jazmine Sullivan: A lot of it had to with a personal relationship I was struggling with. At the time I was trying to fix it and keep things together. Unfortunately, it had become too much to focus my attention on trying to mend that relationship and do the music thing. I didn’t feel like smiling for everybody and acting like everything was okay so I made the decision to take a break.
What made you want to give the music thing another try and journey on this recent comeback? Did the ending of that relationship have anything to do with it?
Yes, ending that relationship had a lot to do with it just because it was so bad, time consuming, and took so much of my energy. Ending it helped me in a lot of ways and helped me find myself again. So much of myself had been wrapped up in that relationship, it’s ridiculous when I think back on it now. I think in relationships people tend to wrap themselves up in a situation, and if it’s bad it weighs heavy on you and takes you and your spirit down with it. Doing the album in a sense was me getting back to myself and moving forward.
You’ve got a new album out entitled, Reality Show, what’s the meaning behind the title? And would you consider yourself a reality TV junkie?
I am a reality TV junkie, that’s for sure [laughs]. I feel like that’s all there is on TV so you’re bound to end up watching. It definitely inspired some of the songs from the album like watching certain shows and the relationships people have, but some of it is also things that I’ve personally dealt with. My own dealings in my own relationship. One of the more personal songs, “Masterpiece (Mona Lisa)”, describes me learning to love myself and my journey to that self-assured place.
VV: What’s the difference between this body of work and others you’ve released? You still bring that soulful vibe and journey listeners on narratives of love and heartbreak, but there is a different level of maturity to Reality Show. Can you explain the difference and your writing process this time around?
JS: I’ve learned throughout the years that one of my strengths is telling stories. So, I just pick a topic for whatever reason that I may have at that moment and I try to make it as descriptive as possible. I think I showcased that talent a lot on this album. I was more concerned about the writing and helping people to see a story through each song.
What are your top three songs off the album?
They change a lot. “Mascara” is one and the reason is because I like the story ,but for some reason I feel like that day I was really in tune with the track. I don’t know, it’s just something about when you’re really feeling the track, the way you ride the beat. It was just the flow of it and I was immediately like this is dope. I was really proud of myself. It actually reminds me of a R.Kelly song, even Mariah Carey. You know when they get in the groove and it’s almost like they won’t take a breath and keep going? “Mascara” kind of unfolds like that where you’re like is she going to stop and I kind of don’t, ever [laughs]. Secondly, I can’t even begin to explain “Masterpiece (Mona Lisa)”. It really just takes you on a journey. And third, I mean it’s up for debate because it changes. Some days it’s “Brand New” and some days it’s not [laughs].
“Mascara” has proven to be a fan-favorite already. It’s very much the quintessential song to describe this new generation where social media is king. With your own personal transformation what made you want to speak on something so real?
It started because I was looking at the video girls and models on Instagram. I was looking at their lives and looking at what I felt like was the same person on each page. It was kind of like they all were carbon copies of each other. Everybody was doing the same thing, living the same way, taking the same type of pictures, it all just looked the same. I had a lot of thoughts. I was like wow [laughs], look at their lives. I was looking admirably, sometimes, but another part of me was like wow they live like this based off of their beauty and it seemed a little unfair. There were many different days where I would look at these females and feel a different way, but when I was telling the story I tried to leave out any personal opinions that I had about any of them. I just wanted to tell the story and let the listeners make their own conclusions. If it makes you want to get butt shots, fine [laughs]. If it makes you take a look at society and not like what’s going on and makes you want to try and change it that’s great too. I just wanted to tell the story and let people perceive it how they want.
VV: You decided to premiere Reality Show a week before it’s release date by streaming it. Are you happy with that decision and did you feel like you needed to gain back the trust of past fans and also attract new listeners?
JS: It was a great way for me to see an early take on it. I have been watching people’s reactions to it and it’s been good. I’m just happy people like it.
In the past you’ve worked with legends like Stevie Wonder, Missy Elliott and Salaam Remi. Were there any other dream-come-true moments you had while working on this album?
With this album, because I did it mostly in Philly by myself I didn’t work with a lot of people hands on. That I think was the most enjoyable thing because I got to a chance to kind of flex by myself, and see the different things I could do on my own. Also, I was able to figure out the things I needed to work on and what I feel like working with somebody else could contribute to making a song better. Overall, it was a good learning process.
What is the key thing you want audiences to takeaway after listening to Reality Show, and how has this album personally affected you?
I think that this album for me is like a time capsule. It’s going to show not only what I was going through but how society was too. I’m glad I created something I think that we all can look back at and see my growth, and I listeners to know there is a silver lining.