Jazmine Sullivan has never been one to mince words. In 2008, the multi-Grammy nominated R&B singer-songwriter voiced the fury of jilted lovers — and possibly inspired a few felonies — on the revenge anthem “Bust Your Windows.” Sullivan’s latest release is titled “Heaux Tales.” The conceptual project is a collection of perspectives on sex, insecurity, loss, and the power of the P — which doesn’t stand for prude. The Philadelphia soul singer shared these provocative stories during a recent sold-out show at The Anthem in DC.
If the March 20 concert was a measure of success, “Heaux Tales” hits all of its targets. A cathartic release was palpable as fans sang along to “Lost One.” The performance of “On It” was a celebration of sexual liberation.
“I want to sit on it / So tell me why you deserve it…,” sang Sullivan. To call the lyrics direct would be an understatement. These are explicit emotions typically reserved for lovers and friends. Throughout the night, I would feel as if I were eavesdropping on intimate conversations.
The thematic songs on “Heaux Tales” are stitched together by interludes — real stories spoken by women baring their souls. R&B singer Ari Lennox discusses how she went against her better judgment on “Ari’s Tale.” A group of ladies expounds on the hypocrisy of the hoe label on “Donna’s Tale.” Then there’s the heart-wrenching “Amanda’s tale.”
“It’s like sex is where I, I’m finding my worth…Even if you don’t really want me, I know you’re going to want that. In one way it’s empowering, in another it’s, it’s sad…” The audio played for the suddenly hushed audience before the performance of “Girl Like Me.”
Watch Jazmine Sullivan ft. HER perform “Girl Like Me” live for NPR’s Tiny Desk Home Concert on YouTube:
The dynamics of love and lust are complicated. One moment you feel powerful, the next powerless. The songs on “Heaux Tales” acknowledges, in an empathic way, what many people go through. “Hurt Me So Good,” from the recently released deluxe version of the project, took fans to church. The sermon topic was toxic codependency.
Sullivan’s latest project may not ignite the next wave of the sexual revolution. However, it does embody the viewpoints of women still struggling against a sexist society. “Heaux Tales” reclaims the polarizing term hoe in the same way that slut-shaming reframes the word slut. Jazmine Sullivan’s candid songwriting and vocals, which NPR Music has described as “the ninth-wonder-of-the-world,” drove the point home during a powerhouse performance.
Other highlights from the show included performances of:
- “Bodies,” Heaux Tales (2021)
- “Bust Your Windows,” Fearless (2008)
- “Put it Down,” Heaux Tales (2021)
- “Mascara,” Reality Show (2015)
- “Price Tags,” Heaux Tales (2021)
- “Holding You Down (Goin’ in Circles),” Love Me Back (2010)
- “Insecure,” Insecure: Music from the HBO Orginal Series, Season 2 (2017)
- “In Love With Another Man,” Fearless (2008)
- “Tragic,” Heaux Tales, Mo’ Tales: the Deluxe (2022)
- “BPW,” Heaux Tales, Mo’ Tales: the Deluxe (2022)
- “Let It Burn,” Reality Show (2015)
Here are some photos from Jazmine Sullivan’s performance at The Anthem on March 20, 2022. All photos copyright and courtesy of Will Colbert.