Jazmine Sullivan is an 11- time- Grammy nominee who has not yet won at the illustrious music awards ceremony.
In the past eight years, Sullivan has created critically acclaimed hits that have not done well in terms of sales and chart listings. She believes her success would be different if she were white.
According to Hello Beautiful, Sullivan’s “three singles from the album, ‘Dumb,’ ‘Forever Don’t Last,’ and ‘Let It Burn,’ didn’t make much of an impact on the charts. While her latest album, ‘Reality Show,’ may have debuted at number 2 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, the CD only sold 30,000 copies in the first week.”
Sullivan recently took a five-year hiatus that has required her to adjust to performing again. She values her fans but acknowledges that she isn’t where she wants to be in her career.
This week other R&B singers have come out about the perceived racial bias in the music industry, pointing out that Adele’s skin color may play a part in her success.
Singer K. Michelle spoke out in an interview about “blue-eyed soul”:
Fashion icon and singer Solange Knowles voiced her opinion while in the middle of a Twitter spat with journalist and New York Times pop critic Jon Caramanica.
These two artists realize that the music industry is a tough place for Black musicians who have not crossed into the mainstream. Historically, Black musicians have had to deal with white artists reaping the awards while playing the same type of music.
For example, Elvis allegedly stole Black musicians’ music and became wealthy while they ended up living in squalor. People like Chuck Berry, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Bo Diddley and countless others did not gain the same amount of fame as Elvis even though they created and innovated rock music.
This trend is consistent in rap with people like Eminem, and in R&B with the aforementioned Adele and Sam Smith as examples of putting white faces on Black cultural products.
The idea that white skin or white social capital is better and more valuable than Black social capital is ingrained in almost every aspect of our society. It is seen in housing discrimination, movies and schooling.
Because of this, there is an emphasis placed on a Black or POC artist’s ability to cross over into the mainstream, which has always been white. This emphasis determines if the artist is successful. Essentially, if white music lovers don’t buy a Black musician’s albums, Black artists are not deemed successful and unable to win awards like a Grammy.
Sullivan joins a club of ultra-talented women like Fantasia, Jill Scott, Elle Varner and Marsha Ambrosius who just don’t get enough shine for their artistry.
Sullivan leaves us with this:
“I guess I’m glad that people are recognizing me in some way, and kind of see there’s a little injustice in how Black soul artists are received,” said Sullivan in an interview with the Associated Press. “But, at the same time, I try not to focus so much on the negativity. [While the people who listen to me] may not be as many people [who] listen to Adele, there are people who are listening. There are people who appreciate me. There are people who love my music.”