Although Jazmine Sullivan doesn’t cover much new ground on Love Me Back, the Philly soulstress does trek across a sizable amount of familiar territory. The album showcases Sullivan’s vocal versatility, as she takes us on a trip through hip-hop, soul, Motown, and even that classic 80’s sound that we all moderately enjoy. The album’s opening cut, “Holding You Down (Goin’ in Circles),” sounds like Mary J. Blige in her prime; those raw, pain-filled cries that so few can pull off convincingly, Sullivan does. What’s more, she manages, (Like Mary J), to make it sound hip-hop, complete with scratching, early-90’s rap drum sounds, and a Slick Rick sample to boot. “Don’t Make Me Wait” sounds like the best 80’s song that didn’t happen in the 80’s. It’s the type of jam you feel guilty dancing to, bursting at the seams with joy. Sullivan describes this as “get[ing] her Vanity Six on,” as in, the all-girl vocal group created by Prince in the early-80’s. And really, who doesn’t love obscure references to lame stuff? Well done, Ms. Sullivan; Prince should be proud.
“U Get on My Nerves,” a duet with Ne-yo, is not nearly as bad as it could have been. In fact, the lyrical twist on the slow jam makes for a pretty entertaining listen. Like many of the cuts, it doesn’t break down any musical barriers, but it shows an artist trying to push the envelope in a genre saturated by lyrical mediocrity. The duo professes their deep disdain for one another, both seemingly ecstatic about their break-up. Truly heartwarming stuff right there.
It is readily apparent on Love Me Back that Ms. Sullivan is making a huge push at greater mainstream success, a claim that she supports on the No I.D.-produced “Famous.” Over a sophisticated strings, flute, and harp arrangement, Sullivan laments: “I’ll do anything to get to where you are / I’ll do anything to reach the stars / You don’t want what you have / But I want it so bad / … / So I gotta be famous.” With two studio albums under her belt, plus a major cosign from Missy Elliott, things are looking bright for the young diva.