Review Summary: A comeback a decade in the making.
Have you ever known of the saying, "too little, too late"" With comebacks being the consistent theme for music as of lately, with artists such as Bon Iver sparking a creative renaissance essentially with his reviving return and boastful sound; it's seemingly countering it. However, that hasn't obviously transitioned well to all facets of the music stratosphere, as evident it is in pop. The "pop artist comeback", as it is dubbed, hasn't been such a positive as artists like former Disney stars Hillary Duff and Joe Jonas (in the form of his cliche '80s troupe DNCE), having released comeback material that merely showered as just an opportunity to get the masses to recognize they still exist, to the unfortunate garbage reception they've received in the eventual end. However, there hasn't been as polarizing of a return as it is for former teenage sensation/heartthrob Jojo. She's highly remembered for her early explosive success in the early and mid 2000's, but what happened after that small window closed is what really triggers the ultimate question; what happened to her in the last 10 years beforehand"
At the age of 13, back in just 2004 the Vermont-raised singer became the youngest artist to chart a number one hit, and then shockingly two years later, released at the age of 15 what would be her signature song, the cheeky but powerful pop ballad "Too Little, Too Late" which saw even greater acclaim. Her first two albums, her 2004 self-titled debut and her 2006 equalizer "The High Road", reached over 6 million copies combined. What would happen afterwards in the 10 years to follow would be immersed in a lengthy fallout with the label that took her to stardom, and to the mainstream music radar, concluding in her disappearance. That absence looked to have been to her advantage though, as it gave her time to mature, experiment and develop her own sound and style and not conform to what she had been doing early on before. She did so with two mixtapes released in 2010 and 2012, before two years later finally being set free from her original label and transitioning forth into Atlantic. That gave her finally the chance to put a brand new studio project out there without the burden of a battle on her shoulders. Now at age 25 and aided by the opportunity of the biggest pop group in the post-1D era, with Fifth Harmony as she opened for the North American leg of the 7/27 World Tour, Jojo has found herself again on the spotlight to the nostalgic response of those like me who were enamored a decade before by her early boom. That has clearly been given due in her sparkling renaissance "Mad Love", a testament to the resiliency and passion she has for music despite the massive holdout that she was forced into in the last decade before.
When I got to see Jojo open for Fifth Harmony at the 7/27 World Tour date in Midland, Texas on September 6th, it definitely wasn't the same teenage heartthrob that I knew by. Was I still enamored" Absolutely, but by knowing her solely by her Radio Disney-esque sound, she diverted away from it for the most part, as she looked to turn a page into the new era of her music. That's where I noticed a more firm grip on the maturity and focus on diving down low into her more bouncy, rhythmic R&B and poppy sound. She was relaxed and loose, more in-tune with herself and her form, and expressive like never before with her poise and flair. It transitions clearly in her mature-esque sound, but she doesn't abandon her old self entirely either. It's clearly showcased in the empowerment anthem "*** Apologies" with high-profile rapper Wiz Khalifa, an obvious diss to her old label. Bristled underneath scathing, misty synths and growling, pulsating bass pairing elegantly with its feisty, defiant lyricism; this is truly a slam against her former record counterparts for being careless and selfish during her early rise. Unforgivable, yet catchy lyricism like "f*ck apologies/I would say sorry if I really meant it" falls back to her former label's lack of accountability and the irony of being "too little, too late", no pun intended. It's an equal pairing of past and present, with the infectious hook that Jojo is well acclaimed for putting together along with her more touchy-feely path as an artist. That sheer balance works very well to her advantage, and it glimmers in shades in instances throughout the excursion.
Being mustered into the controversial period of time and no longer being the teen fad really showed to Jojo who really stood with her, or was there for the wrong reasons. That element took place in fold for her furious comeback, and it glistens vastly as it does in the ultimate highlight of her return, the colorful synth-fest "FAB" featuring female rapper Remy Ma; only fitting as she's making a comeback herself. Exploding with summery, warm synths colliding together and springing out in all directions, it's paired up eloquently with sugar-sweet, clever wordplay that alludes of those who've seemingly forgotten about her and now suddenly ready to strip her humanity again as she soars. That cleverness beams up with lines like "go ahead and jump on a bandwagon/with you fake ass b*tches", invigorated by Jojo's silky, freshening vocals that don't overwhelm but only cruise thru cleanly. She transitions it well from bouncy, tepid compositions to gooey, emotive ballads such as the piano-driven, deeply personal "Music.", a late tribute to her father who died during the troubling times she was in. Songs like this such as the more up-tempo, semi-pop ballad "Mad Love." and the sparkling, synth-driven closer "Rise Up." consistently reinforce the initiative on-point, giving reason to understand that no matter the difference in direction, Jojo is always up to the challenge and doesn't just excel at it, she takes it up to another level.
A lot can change in a decade, and it couldn't be more true for Jojo. The attacks from her formerly beloved label, the passing of her father, falling out of the spotlight for that major gap of time, it can seep a lot out of someone especially as it did for someone of her caliber. The chance to recapture her career seemed too little, too late. But what matters however, is her resolve to make it past it all and prevail in the end, but it changed her musically for the better. That change couldn't be more prevalent as it is in her delicate return with "Mad Love", breaking the trend of pitiful pop comebacks while shedding also the masculinity that her old teenage image reminded us of in the time before this new version of herself took fold. One of sheer resiliency and maturity, as reflected with confidence boosters like the kaleidoscopic jail-breaker "I Can Only." with Alessia Cara on deck. It has put herself on radar again and stating the fact that she isn't the same Jojo we knew of a decade ago. Not at all, she is truly something else now in this era, and that's as promising and exciting as it can get for a brilliant talent who has beamed back to the spot she was in only a decade ago. Never too little, never too late to start anew again.