Music Feature

Review: Jazmine Sullivan - 'Love Me Back'

by Mercedes Jones
We know she's taking a rest, but at least we got this one first

Love Me Back is the vengeful sophomore album from acclaimed Philadelphia R&B singer/songwriter, Jazmine Sullivan. Featuring a myriad of super-producers, Love Me Back has more drama than an episode of Dynasty, and encompasses the intricacies of Sullivan’s diva defiance, fits of rage, and hard loving.

The album is a mixed bag of emotions, but all the songs share a vocal longing that Sullivan has perfected. Lead single, “Hold You Down (Going In Circles),” is a virtual buffet of hip-hop samples. With producers Missy Elliot and Cainon Lamb throwing in bits and pieces of Slick Rick’s “La Di Da Di," Mary J’s "Be Happy (Remix)," Audio Two’s "Top Billin'," and Nas’ "Affirmative Action,” they created a beat so fertile that it spawned several official (and unofficial) remixes. The second single, “10 Seconds,” produced and co-written by Salaam Remi, is another sublime example of sampling. As Sullivan starts to count down, the impending doom turns this song into quite the nail-biter. “Good Enough” and “Don’t Make Me Wait” are finger-popping tunes, with the influence of Prince, that conjure up memories of the fun and flare of '80s dance music. With a sultry beat, it’s easy to get caught up in the sordid details of “Redemption,” where Sullivan spits husky lyrics and lays out a double-sided tale of addiction and power. In “Luv Back,” Sullivan taunts a lover who comes up short and leaves her with a surplus of emotions; then she boldly demands a refund. With dominant dancehall influences and production by the Elliot and Lamb duo, this song bears a striking resemblance to Sullivan’s hit debut single, “Need You Bad” (May 2008). “Love You Long Time,” produced by Salaam Remi, is one heartbeat away from insanity as Sullivan vows love and devotion over a superbly-layered beat. Sullivan meets her musical match on “U Get On My Nerves,” the sequel to smash hit “Bust Your Windows.” In this modern day anthem for couples, Sullivan and R&B contemporary Ne-Yo, find themselves exchanging choice words as they bicker over a love gone terribly wrong. Putting an end to all the drama are “Excuse Me” and “Stuttering,” boyfriend ballads that give listeners a glimpse at the coy side of Sullivan. The slow and winding rhythm of “Famous” rounds the album off with a personal message about Sullivan’s desire for fame. Even with the accomplishments that she has to her name, this song sounds like thoughts of insecurity, and gives yet another example of her vulnerabilities.

Love Me Back has many endearing qualities; it's a polished collection of songs where Sullivan’s talent for writing and brash delivery shine through. Although she does little to break free from her penchant for dramatics, artful storytelling and great production break the monotony of this impressive piece of work. (J Records)

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