Jazmine Sullivan recovers from the mournful self-recrimination of “Lost One,” a disconsolate ballad released at the end of August, to deliver a ferocious kiss-off in “Pick Up Your Feelings,” a new track released Thursday at midnight.
On some days, Sullivan seems like one of the few major-label acts still interested in maintaining R&B’s tradition of acrobatic vocals and electrifying ad-libs. Her voice is raspy, cutting, and pliable, capable of whiplash-inducing direction changes — listen to the way she moves from an earthy descending run (“no more benefits/pop-up visits”) into a sky-high chorus. Even when Sullivan switches her delivery so it’s staccato and rap-like — “Contact, don’t exist/Need a ride?/Call that bitch/Gas way too expensive” — she finds a way to jolt drilling words to life with unexpected melodic twists.
In “Pick Up Your Feelings,” Sullivan’s resolve is strengthened by a simple, pummeling beat courtesy of the producer DZL, all spine-stiffening bass and sharp rhythm ticking out in 6/8 time. In a live setting, this song could easily stretch out for six or ten more minutes, rising and falling and then cresting again.
“Pick Up Your Feelings” was co-written with help from Nova Wav, the formidable duo of Brittany “Chi” Coney and and Denisia “Blue June” Andrews, who have played a part in crafting hits for everyone from the Carters to Mary J. Blige. According to a press release, Sullivan is at work on a new album, her first since 2015, which is due this winter.