About Me

Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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JoJo’s Continued Evolution
Friday, October 06, 2006

Ever since one of my contacts over at i.e. marketing (whaddup Stephanie!) first put me on to JoJo I’ve been a fan. At the time I was writing more heavily about Hip-Hop than anything else and JoJo was obviously a hard pitch. I was told “I’ve got a hot 13 year old singer named JoJo. Trust me on this one Adam, you will like her.” I sighed a bit, but said yes. The advance of her self-titled debut showed up and after one spin I was blown away. First off, she covered one of my favorite SWV songs, “Weak,” and she sounded so close to the original it was amazing. My first thought was “this girl has pipes!” Not only that, but the topic matter of her first album was right on target, it was a 13 year old singing about, for the most part, 13 year old topics, which was, and still is, a bit of a revolution with the grown up before they’re grown up teen stars of today. Yesterday her latest CD, The High Road, hit my desk, and I put it into my CD player with tons of expectations.

Having only heard the lead single, “Too Little Too Late,” I had a myriad of questions in my head about the release. Would she maintain the idea of singing about topics that are age appropriate? Would she try and hijack a past culture, or a current culture, that doesn’t suit her like so many of her peers have? Would the label try to direct her in a certain angle? Thankfully the answers to those questions turned out to be Yes, No, No and No. It’s rare to hear a singer so young be so talented and know how to harness that talent, but JoJo is that girl and thankfully her label sees this and is letting her do her thing at her own pace.

The lead single is light, poppy and appropriate, much like the majority of The High Road. The album’s title track, however, is an especially big standout as it features phenomenal production (love the organ!) and is a great example of JoJo’s range and vocal ability. Note to all American Idol contestants (and Christina Aguilera), you will NOT find long runs with awkward vocal inflections here, JoJo picks a note and hits it, end of story. The song that follows this is “Anything,” which features a sample of Toto’s “Africa.” I shudder to think that her audience has no idea who Toto is, but that’s just me being old. There’s an homage to the R&B hits from around the time JoJo was born on “How To Touch A Girl” and Swizz Beatz even makes a production appearance on “The Way You Do Me” (uh oh, someone call Casio!). With “The Way You Do Me” JoJo may have her first club hit. On the song she sounds like a version of Amerie that…. well, that can actually sing. I smell crossover hit (which strangely enough smells like fresh cut grass because they just mowed the lawn outside of my office).

After getting the advance of her first album I interviewed JoJo. At thirteen years old she seemed to be more schooled in both the music industry and the art of conversation than half of the full grown adults I sit down with. She also had a keen sense for what was appropriate. We talked about her SWV cover (I’m still shocked at how much she sounds like Coko on it) and she noted how she wanted to cover another one of their songs, “Rain,” when she turns 18. Imagine that, a girl knowing there are certain times for certain things. It was at this point that I realized that JoJo wasn’t going to slut it up for record sales, something that I’m sure disappoints many 16 year old boys but thrills the vast majority of parents. Heck, she doesn’t even bare any midriff in the pics for The High Road.

Once again JoJo has given listeners something good without any drastic alterations as to who she is. Shoot, how many artists today in any genre can say that? Is The High Road a pop album? Yes, clearly, but there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a pop album with strong vocals and it doesn’t focus on humping like bunnies. It’s a welcome change and it would be really nice to see more artists take The High Road when creating their music.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 8:04 AM  
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