Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Jazmine Sullivan – Lions, Tigers and Bears

We’re a little bit split on this…


Dave Moore: Marit Larsen’s orchestra helps Jazmine Sullivan tiptoe through a magical forest so that she can warn Dorothy that there really is no place like home: true love is an illusion and a painful divorce is inevitable.

Al Shipley: R&B radio can support a relatively wide variety of sounds, from the club tracks to the slow jams, but one prerequisite that few songs ever get on the air without is a beat. The last hit I can remember with absolutely no rhythm track was John Legend’s “Ordinary People,” and like that song, “Lions Tigers and Bears” is striking both for its lack of percussion and for the weight the hook carries without it. Sullivan oversells the drama by blubbering nonsense like “why do we love love when love seems to hate us,” but it works because the grandiose strings go all the way out on the ledge with her.

Jordan Sargent: It’s hard to deny Jazmine on a technical level, but “Need U Bad” aside, her singles have always struck me as silly, their weightiness undercut by fanciful Disney strings. “Lions & Tigers & Bears” hits me just the same. The plucky orchestration and lyrics about climbing mountains and crossing rivers seem to me more fit for high school theatre than R&B radio. In other words, I’ll take Keyshia, thanks.

Edward Okulicz: More than just floaty and airborne, this is ethereal, shimmering and exquisitely dramatic. Sullivan’s voice is distinct and she sings (and never over-sings) her story like an actress completely inhabiting her role. Music, melody, meaning… the overall effect is nothing less than a 00s “When Doves Cry”. Absolutely stunning.

Doug Robertson: Blimey, this song goes on longer than the Yellow Brick Road itself, but by the end of this journey there’s no surprises and the wizard hasn’t bothered even attempting to hide behind a curtain. Everything about this is crushingly predictable and even the, admittedly, quite impressively impassioned vocal can’t help this soar any higher than about kerb level. Any lions, tigers or bears in the vicinity would probably just give up and go home.

Hillary Brown: This song has precisely two things wrong with it: 1. It seems to last about ten minutes. 2. It has little structure, being kind of a loop of the same thing, and that probably contributes mightily to #1. But when it’s this pleasurable to listen to that loop, which is made up of a stellar vocal performance over a beautiful, pizzicato-accented set of twinkles, I’m not sure I can complain in any way other than docking the song a couple of points for not completely blowing my mind.

Martin Kavka: I hate her plaintive voice, and I hate that she would rather complain about being the victim of anonymous “love” (but not the person whom she loves) than do anything about it. Butch it up, girl! Stay in the relationship, or give yourself good reasons for dumping him.

Martin Skidmore: I adore her voice, even when she sounds a touch forced: she always sounds moved and sexy and strong, and the strained moments give this a genuinely tormented feel. The strings on this are gorgeous too, flowing at times, pizzicato at others, but always beautiful. One of my favourites of the year so far.

Ian Mathers: Generally speaking, I hate musicals and this is way, way too show tune-y for me. But I have to give it credit for surprisingly realistic bleakness (“just because I love you and you love me / doesn’t mean that we were meant to be”) and for the song’s commitment to its Broadway orchestration, which remains stately and mournful throughout. Putting such a defiantly really-old-school ballad on an R’n’B album is to be lauded, even if it’s a form I’m not a fan of myself.

Alex Wisgard: Ladies and gentlemen, Alicia Keys is floating in space.

4 Responses to “Jazmine Sullivan – Lions, Tigers and Bears”

  1. I don’t know if we are going to have any ‘highest score of the week’ highlighting or anything like that, but if so I do think ‘most contentious of the week’ is at least as worth picking out.

  2. Absolutely. Although after reflection, I’d leave my blurb exactly the same, but maybe push this to a 7.

  3. LOL at another imminent pop lyric street fight…

    Stay in the relationship, or give yourself good reasons for dumping him.

    I dunno, there’s something interesting and pathological about Jazmine Sullivan’s fears throughout the album, this being no exception: as dumb a line as “why do we love love when love seems to hate us” may be, it does get at something that seems to follow Jazmine through relationships, so that this particular one isn’t the issue. The issue (for her) is ALL of her relationships, which are ALL doomed to failure. She identifies this more specifically on “Fear” (“I’m scared to move on so I live in the past,” “I’m scared of love cuz I’m scared he’ll leave,” “scared to share a secret cuz I’m scared you’ll tell”). Important part being that the issue isn’t him at all, it’s her — this is a behavior that persists (and is fairly common throughout the album) regardless of who she’s with. What’s interesting conceptually about this song lyricswise is that this seems to be a perfectly healthy relationship that she’s in the process of destroying because it’s just what she always does and figures it will end badly anyway.

  4. i really love the song lions tigers and bears