Music

Jazmine Sullivan’s ‘Heaux Tales’ Fights Social Norms While Flaunting Sexual Liberation

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Jazmine Sullivan. The Philly singer’s name alone is enough to unearth more than a decade of soul-capturing high notes and euphoric ballads. Her talent and remarkable, yet criminally underrated career can be placed into the “if you know, you know” and “what’s understood doesn’t need to be explained” boxes. She’s a treasure to the R&B world, and truthfully, it’s on you if you’ve traversed the world without stumbling onto her in some way. Closed mouths don’t get fed and closed ears miss out on the truth and that’s exactly what Sullivan is for this genre. Despite all the flowers she’s worthy of and received, Sullivan gives fans another chance to throw a few more roses onstage with her latest project, Heaux Tales.

Five long years have passed since Sullivan graced us with a release. A passionate anthem that called for a newly-unwrapped love to be lit ablaze was one of the many offerings her 2015 Reality Show album delivered to her fans. Nowadays, Jazmine lets the misogynistic labels from men burn to ashes as she and her fellow ladies stand tall and proud in their pool of sexual liberation. Heaux Tales presents a track record of men entering and exiting Sullivan’s life, a recurrence she accepts with no shame because what exactly is there to be ashamed of?

It could be the frequent occurrences of her late-night rendezvous, something Sullivan ponders seconds into the album. “I keep on pilin’ up bodies on bodies on bodies,” she sings with a tone of mild self-frustration on “Bodies” before adding, “Yeah, you gettin’ sloppy, girl.” Moments later these concerns are drowned out by the moans of satisfaction and pleasure she lets out on “Put It Down.” She may have debated her sexual activity on the intro all to praise her next man’s stroke game and how it altered her behavior just a few songs later, but it doesn’t make either less representative of the liberation she carries on the album. In both cases, it’s her right to think and do as she pleases without the condemnation or thirst-driven approval a man may have to offer.

Heaux Tales presents moments of freedom that, as a listener, you can’t help but appreciate. With the support of Ari Lennox, who proclaimed that “d*ck spoke life into me” at one instance of her life, the two songstresses float on a dream cloud towards sensual eruption on “On It.” The song is taunting, provoking, and inviting, but the ticket to experience any of that comes with a sizable fee. You can be a part of Sullivan’s Heaux Tales but not without at least paying the bare minimum price of the reciprocated energy or the more fulfilling one that sees the dominant role assumed and played out to the singer’s satisfaction. “Pricetags” follows a similar sentiment, where this time around, money is what “keeps the p*ssy wet” according to Sullivan. After all, it ain’t trickin’ if you got it right?

As liberating as moments on Sullivan’s latest release can be, Heaux Tales shows men can be toyed with, bought, and sent away with no remorse just as much as they proclaim to with women and more than they’re willing to admit. “Pick Up Your Feelings” drills her former lover with the same deafening punch of unforgiveness that Sullivan hoped to overcome on “Lost One,” but luckily for her where there’s one man, they’ll be another to fill the void. As she says herself on “The Other Side,” “I’m hoping these t*tties can get me out the city / I know I’m too pretty to not do nothing with it.” The options are neverending, so altering her ways for one person when there’s a sea of others who will accept them grants power and a boost in confidence to a party that is far from worthy of it. Sullivan isn’t here to declare herself as the epitome of perfection. She sees her flaws, but they all lay within a skin she wears as she pleases for herself, and no one else.

In a world where women are surveilled for their sexual activity and sex workers are looked down upon by the very people who lust over them behind close doors — or even pay for their services — Sullivan’s Heaux Tales casts a light on the goalpost-shifting standards of this patriarchal society. Her stories are held up by similar accounts from five other women, an inclusion that smashes any claims of “projection” on Sullivan’s part. For example, while “Ari’s Tale” appears to be another example of the Shea Butter Baby singer’s eccentric ways, she concludes her anecdote by repeating a line that serves as the album’s foundation. “This is my truth.” That’s all Heaux Tales is for Sullivan, her truth, her story, and a very real account of how she and women all over the world feel in a society ruled by man. The music is elegant and the project’s construction is flawless. Just one week into 2021, Ms. Jazmine Sullivan graced us with an undeniable moment that will be remembered at the end of the year and years to come for a project that carries the characteristics to be labeled a classic in the future.

Heaux Tales is out now via RCA. Get it here.

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