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Album review: Jazmine Sullivan's 'Love Me Back'

November 30, 2010 | 12:20 pm

Jazminesullivan As long as Missy Elliott keeps withholding a new album from her listeners, now nearly despondent from neglect, we'll have to make do with salvos from her protégés. The good news is that Jazmine Sullivan, only 23, is already her own tough-loving individual on her sophomore album, “Love Me Back.”

With a lived-in voice that's scratched and ragged at the edges, Sullivan walks herself to the precipice of emotion without falling off. Instead she finds the plaintive center, the kind of soothing intimacy that almost seems like the way we'd sing to ourselves in times of trouble. Whether the heartsick R&B of the piano-driven “Stuttering” or the Elliott-produced, sample-stacked “Holding You Down (Goin' in Circles),” Sullivan pours herself into the songs yet keeps her ground, no matter the style or tone.

Executive produced by Elliott and Salaam Remi (responsible for Sullivan's breakout hit, “Bust Your Windows”), “Love Me Back” gives Sullivan the opportunity to test ideas. On “Don't Make Me Wait,” she frolics in her purple legwarmers to Prince-inspired synth-aerobics, her voice a breathy tease. Overall, “Love Me Back” could use more experimentation — it feels a little static with too many similar-sounding songs.

But there's no denying Sullivan's comfort zone. For “U Get On My Nerves,” she and sparring partner Ne-Yo capture “the ex doth protest too much” syndrome. As they both rant about the other, you can practically see them climbing into bed for one last try — and one last fight.

— Margaret Wappler

Jazmine Sullivan
“Love Me Back”
J Records
Three stars

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