This piece is part of Rolling Stone’s second annual Grammy Preview special issue, released ahead of the start of first-round voting. We spoke to some of the year’s biggest artists about the albums and singles that could earn them a nomination — or even a statue come January — and delved into the challenges facing the Recording Academy, providing a 360-degree view of what to watch for in the lead-up to the 2022 awards.
Artist: Jazmine Sullivan
Eligible for: Heaux Tales
This year, Jazmine Sullivan has been everywhere, from the BET and Soul Train awards to a spectacular Tiny Desk Concert, during which you’d never have guessed that she was performing in her own living room. For many women, seeing Sullivan everywhere meant seeing themselves. The singer’s January EP, Heaux Tales, is an enthralling exploration of the ways that love and lust can torment you, interwoven with spoken interludes from other women sharing real, personal anecdotes about sex, infidelity, and insecurity.
“It’s important to have different representations of Black women,” Sullivan says. “It’s important to have a body-positive Lizzo or a quirky SZA and Ari [Lennox], or me. We have shared Black-girl similarities, but there are major differences that need to be shown and celebrated. This project was about sharing some of those stories so that y’all could see us in all of our glory, see us for who we are.”
You write from so many perspectives, not all of them necessarily your own. Which Heaux Tales songs do you hear the most of yourself in?
I could relate to all of them. I mean, I’m a grown woman; I’ve experienced a lot of what I wrote on the project — maybe not fully, but in some way. Like, for instance, I’ve never really dated somebody that took care of me financially, but I wanted it. But I would say [“Amanda’s Tale”] hits home for me because I can identify with not feeling like enough; I think a lot of women can, and especially a lot of Black women, especially in this world where we’re not told we’re beautiful, we’re not celebrated for our beauty, for our gifts, for anything. And then feeling like you’re just not enough even with the men that you choose.
So much about Heaux Tales feels communal. How has it impacted your relationships with the women you worked with?
Well, it didn’t change [them]. These stories are things that I’ve heard all my life. I’ve grown up with these women, so we’ve been children together; we’ve had children together. One of my girlfriends is getting married next week. But it did make me appreciate them more and realize how much they love me to then trust me with those stories. …They trusted me enough to take care of their words and their hearts.
What about with fans and listeners? What have those interactions been like post–Heaux Tales?
Man, we feel like girlfriends. I believe that the project made a lot of women, Black women, feel seen. There’s this community now, especially with how we interact on Instagram, where we’re able to share our stories and not feel like we’re being judged. … So I definitely feel like me and my fans have grown closer and I love that for us.
You’ve been singing since you were so young — your mom says that at age two you were hitting notes that could make a choir jealous. How has your relationship with singing evolved over time?
It’s really my first love. It’s really the only thing besides writing that I really know how to do. And it’s just been a natural progression; the older that you get, you start to realize that things are changing in your body. And so I am now seeing a difference in the way I have to approach singing and my voice. And I’m trying to come to grips with the fact that I’m getting older and things are working differently. So it’s definitely a journey … but like I said, this is what I love to do.
You’ve received 12 Grammy nominations in years past. Describe your outlook on the awards this time around.
I feel like I won. The fact that women — Black women — have responded to this project in this way, to me, means more than any award.… I hope that people who maybe haven’t heard of me or haven’t really given the project a listen will listen and hear the intent behind it and see what it’s done. I’ll be happy if I win; I’ll be happy if I don’t. I’m good either way.