20 January 2021-
To celebrate President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris (finally) taking office, here is the review of the remarkable new album released by African-American woman — and budding superstar — Jazmine Sullivan...
No one saw this coming. Especially with everything that was going on in the world in general — and in the United States in particular. Yet, on January 8th 2021, noted soul singer Jazmine Sullivan calmly but surely put out an album that became a surprise Billboard Top 5 hit (and topped the R&B charts) on its first week. Not bad after years spent virtually out of the spotlight…
Many things are interesting about Sullivan and this project. First off, it’s not the artist’s first time engineering a disappearing / reappearing act. Actually, that’s pretty much been her go-to move throughout her career. Which is fitting in this day and age, when you have somewhat notorious people like Taylor Swift or Eminem dropping projects on a whim… In any event, even though we didn’t know much about Heaux Tales, we’d been warned it was coming back in August 2020, along with a first song reveal, “Lost one” — one of the many gems on the release.
We say “release” here as there is some ambiguity as to whether it is to be considered an album or an extended play: the jury’s out, although we at Sondz take it is an album. Either way, what it is for sure is a highly consistent, conceptual piece of art centered around the topic of love, feelings, relationships and everything in-between. Treated with the distance a 30-something year-old would have, as opposed to what younger performers may have to say/sing about that. And we’re all the more lucky for it: in many ways, Heaux Tales is a welcome reminder of how incredibly enjoyable sophisticated soul can sound like.
Somewhat reminiscent of the genre’s highs as helmed by the likes of Mary J. Blige, Erykah Badu or even the great Lauryn Hill, this project is indeed an interesting mix of contemporary “new soul” as well as a nod to its heyday, especially of the solo female variety. Beautifully crafted, almost hushed at times, minimalistic yet refined songs like “Pick up your feelings” or “Girl like me” are remarkable examples of vocal-driven, soulful… soul. Not to mention “Price tags”, which includes a very topical featuring from Anderson .Paak, coming as an interesting counter-point to the protagonist’s thoughts and meanderings.
What is perhaps most interesting is the reception Heaux tales has been having: whether or not this signals the start of a “new new soul” movement (or the continuation of one), it is in any case a clear indication that listeners are currently yearning for subtle songs and sounds, possibly to counter the noise and turbulence recent history has been packed with. Either way, here’s to wishing the best to this project, and many more to come!