Review Summary: Because Spotify mattersJoJo (2018)
is a re-recorded version of JoJo's 2004 debut self-titled album. Da Family Entertainment, her former record label, refuses to put her first two albums on streaming services due to bad blood. Having grown tired of her fans not being able to easily access these two albums on Spotify, Apple Music, and other such platforms, JoJo went through the one loophole she could find – to re-record both albums and re-release them through her new record label. Both re-releases saw improvements on nearly every front from their original counterparts, but I've chosen the self-titled album to elaborate on these enhancements due to it being my preference of the two.
Although it's not entirely necessary, and may not be easily done due to the album being somewhat hard to find these days via legal means, I recommend listening to the original version first before diving into the re-release. The original, when not compared to anything else, showcases a twelve-year-old girl gifted with a miraculous singing voice, backed by vibrant yet unobtrusive beats, and given her maximized glory through professional songwriting. It's not until listening to JoJo (2018)
when one realizes that her miraculous gift was – quite literally – only in the juvenile stages of development, and those beats she was backed by could have used quite a bit of polishing. To put it astutely, JoJo (2018)
was the gift JoJo fans needed without realizing that they needed it.
By listening to both versions one after another on the same apparatus, one can perceive by just the first few seconds of the opener Breezy
alone that not only does the bass boom harder, the treble side of the beats also sound less muddy, and more prominent. While not the best representation of JoJo's range, the general improvement on the clarity of vocal production can also be noticed immediately on this track. While the singer stayed true to almost all of the lyrics from the original despite some of them being obviously written by and for a younger demographic (check Homeboy
for a hoot), there is one lyric change in the chorus of Breezy
that perhaps only the keenest of JoJo fans noticed at once. While the original lyric declared "I'm his one and only, nothing less", the line she replaced this with is, "That's my name that's tatted on his chest". JoJo confirmed on Twitter that the new lyric was actually the original lyric, but was omitted on the original album due to the fact that she was twelve.
It's not until the second track, Baby It's You
(my absolute favorite JoJo song), when one starts to hear just how much of an improvement her vocals had made during the prior fourteen years. Her voice, deeper and far more womanly, exudes a confidence – particularly in the high notes of the chorus – that only decades of practice could bring. She matches this vocal maturity throughout the rest of the album, conveying the tone of each of her beloved songs with the utmost feeling. I have to give especial praise to the re-recorded version of her once wildly and still very popular hit single Leave (Get Out)
, as it is sung with not only complete vocal mastery, but with such genuine and heartfelt emotion that I had to pause the album on first playthrough, as I was left in awe.
I have the same primary criticism for JoJo (2018)
as I do for the original: the second half of the album is much weaker than the first. While the first half is mainly up-tempo, upbeat, early-2000's radio-hit material, the second half (with the exception Yes or No
, a banger) is slower, ballad-ridden, and is intended as an appeal to emotion. Don't get me wrong, if there's any pop singer I want to hear throw down a ballad, it's JoJo; but I can't help but feel that she seems more in her element when she's not singing about the sad stuff. Nonetheless, none of the tracks are outright bad, and the entire album is worth listening to the whole way through.
To piggyback off of a statement I made at the end of the second paragraph, JoJo (2018)
and The High Road (2018)
are gifts to JoJo's fans in more ways than one. Not only do we have the luxury (sad that it has to be a considered a luxury in the first place) of being able to stream these albums at will from our preferred service, but we also get to see how much she has grown as a singer since her blossom into adulthood. While I do hope that Da Family Entertainment eventually stops holding a grudge against JoJo and decides to put the original albums on streaming services, it's okay if they don't, because JoJo has provided us with rather wonderful replacements.