Why is Jazmine Sullivan so Underrated?

by Dom Jones

Jazmine Sullivan is a better vocalist than most vocalists. She is the expert vocalist’s favorite singer. She is the singer who Brandy, known to many as “the vocal bible,” asked to learn runs/riffs from. She is also the artist who questioned why her successes don’t match those of Adele. I’m just as baffled as Ms. Sullivan, since most people I know absolutely love everything that she does. She recently elevated a new Mali Music track “Loved by You” with a feature. Take a listen below:

Social media was ablaze when a video surfaced of Jazmine covering the popular Kehlani song “Gangsta” at one of her shows:

She’s never been confined to one genre, and has dominated covers spanning different sounds:

Even taking on songs by the late, great Whitney Houston:

So, with all of this, why hasn’t Jazmine Sullivan reached the level of stardom that her core fanbase certainly believes she deserves? Her most recent album, Reality Show, was great, yet failed to have a standout hit on it, although “Forever Don’t Last” was a phenomenal power ballad. The first single, “Dumb” was meant to be the more mid-tempo groove that might endear listeners. I think that there were missteps as far as the singles chosen for release from this album. In this climate of women’s empowerment, “Masterpiece” may have been a better choice or a more radio-friendly tune may have been “Hood Love.” Her first efforts had more successful singles with help from Missy Elliott and by staying “on-brand” thematically speaking. “Need U Bad” and “Lions, Tigers, and Bears” dominated Urban AC radio. Stevie Wonder called “Bust Your Windows” a classic song. After that first album, it seemed that Jazmine was poised for a quick ascent. The second album stayed on brand with “Holding You Down,” although the second single, “10 Seconds” faltered in popularity. I personally liked 10 seconds better than Holding You Down, but I digress. Then, Sullivan committed the cardinal sin when on the superhighway to stardom: she took a break from music, with no concrete plans for a return. The challenges that she faced as an artist trying to break through as a “crossover” artist were exacerbated by the ever true adage “out of sight, out of mind.” At least some of her fanbase likely moved on with this announcement, maybe not even to return when she announced her return.

Jazmine Sullivan also doesn’t fully fit within the accepted archetype of what a female megastar is aesthetically, which we’ve seen European artists (like Adele) overcome. Frankly, we only saw a music video for “Dumb” from this last album, when music videos are a great promotional tool for artists. But this excuse doesn’t really hold up, when considering that Adele bested Beyoncè for the top prize at the Grammys this year, and Beyoncè is the more accepted archetype of female megastardom.

Her vocal prowess is undeniable. Her songwriting ability is solid, as shown on Reality Show, where she penned most of the songs. What stands between Jazmine Sullivan and the next level? The industry has changed in such a way that some of the things that stand between her and a hit may not be things that she’s willing to do: she could make her sound more “pop,” she could perpetrate a scandal/beef to position herself more in the public eye (a la 50 cent), but maybe there’s nothing more she can do because this isn’t a singer’s market anymore – it’s a fan’s. What’s standing between Jazmine Sullivan and the next level is us. Those of us who truly believe in her work have to support it, even advocate for it because while data, analytics, clicks, and views compel labels and music bigwigs to action, word of mouth creates new fans, and that’s what she needs: more awareness among music listeners. If you believe in her work and her worth as an artist, tell someone about her. It won’t change the messed up things about the entertainment industry that make it harder for her to get where she wants to be (and where we all want her to be) but it’ll get her a little bit closer.


About the Author

Dom Jones is a dual major in Music Business and Songwriting, and her work has been published in Huffington Post, Teen Vogue, Blavity and Ebony.com. She released her debut album, Wingspan, in 2014 and her follow up EP, Blackbird in 2016. Find out more about her at iamdomjones.com