So what has Philly-born R&B star Jazmine Sullivan been doing since she released her last album four years ago?
Watching reality TV.
Actually, Sullivan, who’s touring the country in support of her chart-topping new album “Reality Show,” has a very good reason why she’s been out of the game, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
First, why reality TV?
“The mess of it all kind of kept my attention,” says the “Bust Your Windows” singer. “I watched a lot of reality shows while I wasn’t in music. It definitely influenced the album.”
The influence is apparent in several compelling character studies on “Reality Show,” such as the body-modifying model on “Mascara.”
“People are drawn to the fact that [reality TV stars] were normal people like them. When you look at stars, actors and singers, they seem to be far away,” Sullivan says. “With reality shows, it gives us a way to be the same as the people we’re watching on TV. People want to feel that we’re all the same.”
The same, that is, if you also have your neighbor’s weave in your hands and grass stains on your knees after a tussle in front of the cameras. As for “Reality Show” the album, it’s full of smart, diverse grooves that stay far away from complacency. Sullivan gets into a car-window smashing mode on the urgent “Dumb,” which features a guest rhyme from Meek Mill. “Silver Lining” recalls the jazzy flows of Stevie Wonder’s ’70s jams, and “Let It Burn” has a synthy early-’80s R&B vibe. The snappy “Stupid Girl” has a fun, retro sizzle.
As for why Sullivan left music, that’s referred to on the track “Forever Don’t Last,” a powerhouse acoustic ballad in which Sullivan gives a wait-here-and-listen-to-this vocal performance.
The 27 year old was in an abusive relationship that she could not extricate herself from.
Now, it’s a better situation and a hometown show tonight at TLA.
“You have to decide that you’re the most important person and once you decide that and once you believe that,” she says of moving on, “then you won’t allow yourself to stay in a situation that’s not healthy for you.”
Jazmine Sullivan plays a sold out show Tuesday, March 10, at Theatre of Living Arts in Philadelphia. On Wednesday, March 11, she plays Irving Plaza in New York. Tickets are $45 at 212-777-6800 or www.livenation.com.