THE GUITAR SOUNDED a bit out of tune, but she liked it. Jazmine Sullivan was flipping through tracks on her computer, finding material to put words to for her new album. “It was so heart-wrenching,” she remembers. “It just hit me.” She jotted down lyrics for a plea: “Just don’t have too much fun without me/Don’t have too much, don’t have too much fun/Please don’t forget about me/Try not to love no one.” Her request is selfish, but it feels real. It became the first single, “Lost One,” from her new album, Heaux Tales. “I just tried to think of the saddest thing I could think of,” she says. “The thing that came to mind was losing somebody you loved.”
Among today’s crop of R&B artists, Sullivan is a voice—a singer in the tradition of Mary J. Blige and Alicia Keys. She’s also a writer. Heartache, heartbreak, that liminal space between desperately missing an ex and wanting them dead, burned, and buried—this is what she makes music about. Across three albums, the 33-year-old singer-songwriter has thrown her head back to cry out in song, sometimes wishing for love, sometimes recovering from it. Her songs often have two modes: rootless uncertainty and a boundless enthusiasm for the new—man, relationship, vision of life. Sullivan makes fans wait for it, averaging a longer hiatus between albums than most: There were two years between her first one, Fearless, and her second, Love Me Back, but five between Love Me Back and 2015’s Reality Show. All three have earned Grammy nominations.
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