Born and raised in Philadelphia, Jazmine Sullivan stands among my favorite singers alive. Her raw vocal dynamism and flawless technique are matched by an incisive lyricism. Her songwriting feels both old and new—jazz, motown, R&B, and hip-hop meld with electronic production, often in the context of unconventional structure. Jazmine was prodigious (here’s a video of her belting the Wiz, supposedly aged 11) and her genius endures. I’ve been trying to see her live for years, and I can’t wait for her next album—though, like most good things, I think it’ll take a while.
I failed to find a favorite track. There are too many masterpieces. I chose “Stupid Girl” for today’s post. The song comes from Sullivan’s most recent album, Reality Show (2015), and keeps with the album’s adamant, nuanced feminism. Lyrically, the protagonist acknowledges her twin flaws of reliance on male affirmation and tolerance of male abuse. Simultaneously, however, she criticizes the objectification of women and exhorts other women to “L-L-Learn from my mistakes, because it isn’t too late / For you to get up and run, please just don’t be dumb / Cause you have a choice, t-to run after them boys or take over the world.” (This verse also features Sullivan’s signature “stutter” inflection, the origin of which I’m itching to discover.)
Here is a particularly stimulating live rendition. NPR films Sullivan singing “Stupid Girl” with a lone guitarist in a barbershop, effectively taking to task the denizens of an emblematically male space.
“Stupid Girl” Jazmine Sullivan, Reality Show (2015)