Jazmine Sullivan is the most underrated artist of our generation. I mean that. But it's not because people don't know she's talented. Last weekend when it was revealed that she has credits on four(!) songs on Frank Ocean's new album, Twitter was awash in praise.
Did I hear Jazmine Sullivan?! Frank Ocean won. Yes, he did. pic.twitter.com/XExQHgkhTI— Kanye invented Gospel albums. (@yoyotrav) August 19, 2016
FRANK OCEAN AND JAZMINE SULLIVAN. TOGETHER. pic.twitter.com/SwfxPOhABI— BroadwayBae (@destanisimone) August 19, 2016
If everyone's so happy for her, if everyone knows how deserving she is of success, WHY ISN'T SHE A STAR?
Sullivan was signed at age 15 by Jive. Her debut single, "Need U Bad," released in 2008, rose to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, partially because no one sounded like her on the radio. Her rich contralto, which is a rare female tone, is powerful but controlled. Vocally, there just aren't many current singers — male or female — who can compare. Her range is incredible; so, too, is her songwriting ability. Sullivan has written for Jennifer Hudson, Tamia, Monica, Fantasia, and Christina Milian. The woman has 11 Grammy nominations.
Here she is teaching Brandy a vocal run. You didn't catch that: Jazmine is teaching a run to Brandy Norwood, known to her fans as "The Vocal Bible."
So why isn't our girl winning? Let's squash this argument before it comes out your mouth:
"I think I was dropped from my first record label because of my size. I got signed around the time a bunch of skinny pop stars were coming out, and there I was, a young, thick girl with this strong voice. I didn't fit in," she told EBONY when she was a cover girl for their March "Body Brigade" issue. Where I'm from, this is a bombshell:
But to "the industry," we must apply labels like "voluptuous" and "plus size." The idea that Sullivan is not a mainstream star because of her clothing size falls flat, however, when you say one name: Adele. Adele's third album, 25, sold 3.38 million copies in its first week of release in the U.S., breaking a record. Sullivan's third album, Reality Show, released in the same year, debuted at No. 12 on the Billboard 200 and sold 30,000 copies in the United States in its first week.
The point is not to pit Sullivan against Adele, it's to say we can't blame "the industry" for this one; numbers don't lie. For those of us who know she is the truth, just tweeting our love isn't the kind of support she can build a sustainable career off of. Are you buying the album? Are you purchasing a ticket to the show? The industry has become so democratized that gatekeepers are getting fewer and far between. We can point to a number of artists who reverse-engineered their way into the game; people who were so hot in the streets that the mainstream had to pay attention.
It looks like if we want our girl to cook, we have to turn up the heat.