When Jazmine Sullivan drops a body of work, it’s always a statement. On her last proper album, 2015’s Reality Show — released almost five years after its predecessor — the singer embodied the stories of Black women in all their facets, from scorned lover to envied Instagram influencer, from ride-or-die to “stupid girl.” Speaking her truth, she left no stone unturned and no person unscathed (herself included) before she quietly retreated from the spotlight until she had something of substance to voice again. Heaux Tales, her first project in nearly six years, is that something of substance: over eight official tracks, Sullivan hones in on how sex has impacted the relationships the women in her circle have with men, other women, and even themselves.
Bolstered by “tales,” spoken-word that feels like sermons backed by a trap beat, from various friends and family of the singer, Sullivan presents various character studies across the project. While mainly providing context to the singer’s frequently third-person lyrics, some of these interludes also color the songs with humor, specifically Ari Lennox’s quip “that dick spoke life into me” and Precious’ matter-of-fact “money makes me cum.” Even with these six seemingly disparate stories, all roads lead back to Sullivan.
After satirizing the taboo of women having large body counts on the record’s intro, Sullivan kicks a cheating lover to the curb on the incendiary and show-stopping “Pick Up Your Feelings” before recalling her own indiscretions on lead single “Lost One.” She moves into warmer territory with the self-explanatory “Put It Down” and orgasmic (quite literally!) “On It;” the latter an Ari Lennox assist that finds the two powerhouses harmonizing about wanting to “sit on it.” While dreaming of a better, Instagram-worthy life on “The Other Side,” closer “Girl Like Me” continues the theme of social media and the comparisons it breeds between women; Sullivan turns the magnifying glass on the men that instigate such competition, asking “see what you did to me?” Heaux Tales packs so much revelatory content into just a handful of tracks, let’s pray we don’t have to wait another half-decade for Sullivan’s next musical dissertation.
Standout tracks: “Pick Up Your Feelings,” “Put It Down,” “On It,” “Girl Like Me”