14 October 2016 saw the release of JoJo’s Mad Love; her first album in over a decade. For many, JoJo may best be remembered as the 13 year old pop sprite responsible for 2004’s catchy hit ‘Leave (Get Out)’. You know, the video which saw her prancing around a high school, singing in faux-aggression about a relationship that was way, way beyond her maturity level. Let alone her comprehension.
Well, that one.
So, it’s been widely publicised that JoJo had been trapped in a long and bitter contractual binding with Blackground Records and wasn’t able to release any music for absolutely bloody ages. Harsh and unfair, I think you’ll agree. Anyway, breathe a sigh of relief as this quirky songbird has now broken free from the contractual penitentiary and she’s back with a vengeance.
I can’t lie. Before pressing play on Mad Love, I was a little concerned that my eardrums would be inflicted with middle-of-the-road saccharine pop, riddled with overcooked, auto-tuned vocals and uninspired, predictable lyrics.
Thankfully I was wrong. I was far too cynical.
Back from her enforced musical hiatus, JoJo presents as a genuinely mature 25 year old who sadly suffered the loss of her father only last year and is a young woman who speaks candidly about seeking solace in alcohol to numb the depression that began to envelop her. She’s experienced broken-down relationships, tremendous loss and the music industry at its most corrupt.
Certainly no longer the sugar-coated pre-teen in the dreadful ‘boys stink’ t-shirt…
Oh no. JoJo is FIERCE. And I don’t mean that in Beyonce booty-spasming terms. She actually warrants the adjective. Sick of the grotesquely fickle music industry, JoJo was once told that she didn’t look good enough to sell the music she was making. And for that, she’s angry. God forbid, JoJo is devoid of a set of pendulous plastic popstar breasts, nor has she bathed in a sea of peroxide… but she’s still hot. And she’s refreshingly real. She’s ready to speak out.
Mad Love opens with the heart-wrenching ‘Music’; an ode to JoJo’s late father, Joel. The song is highly emotive, with the lyrics ‘my only hope is that he’s looking down … my daughter’s doing it now’ displaying a deep vulnerability. This track is honest, stripped back and thankfully there’s no over-singing. Just sublime, understated vocals and lovely piano accompaniment.
The album features three collaborations; most notably ‘Fuck Apologies’ which sees JoJo teaming up with Wiz Khalifa. This is a pop-perfect anthem about empowerment and quite aptly was the first single released from the Mad Love. ‘Fuck Apologies’ sees JoJo in irreverent form, where she’s making no excuses for who she is, how she behaves or what she’s experienced.
Somewhere between ballad and pop anthem, ‘I Can Only’ sees JoJo collaborating with Canadian singer/songwriter, Alessia Cara. Here, JoJo is speaking of being scrutinised, but most importantly, no longer giving a damn:
‘This moment of truth hidden under my tongue / no longer numb.’
Not standing for bullshit and fakery (‘fake ass bitches,’ to be precise) is a theme continued in the sassy, ‘FAB.’ where JoJo teams up with Brooklyn artist, Remy Ma, who like JoJo has recently returned from an extended musical exile. One thing is for sure, neither of these two thought to fill their free time by enrolling in anger management classes… but that relentless ferocity is what makes the track so spirited and bold.
Mad Love is packed full of pop anthems: most notably ‘I Am’, ‘Rise Up’ and ‘High Heels;’ the latter seeing JoJo’s voice a little reminiscent of Christina Aguilera as she wails ‘you bad motherfucker.’ And you know what, after what she’s been through, this sounds an entirely warranted statement.
‘Vibe’ is decent, but nothing to shout about; indistinguishable from the array of other club-ready tracks filling the airways at the present moment. ‘Good Thing’ is of a similar ilk, suffering from a chorus which I felt was a bit weak and unoriginal. We are, however, compensated with an addictively pulsating beat and her vocals are fab, so I’ll let the rest slide.
Title track, ‘Mad Love’ was inspired by a dysfunctional relationship and is one of the album’s standout numbers. The passion and emotion in JoJo’s voice is clear and it sounds genuine, and less over-produced than other, similar artists. Furthermore, it’ll have listeners attempting to sing along in tragically inept Bridget Jones style after only about the first two minutes. Or maybe that was just me.
All in all, Mad Love is a soaring comeback for JoJo which showcases a diverse variation of music throughout. Far from disjointed, it holds the listener’s attention and despite its variance, is fused perfectly together by her fantastic vocals. Whilst i’m sure JoJo could’ve done without the enforced musical hiatus, I think its worked in her favour. She’s safe from overexposure and her rough experiences have provided her with depth and substance, unlike many of her contemporaries. Thumbs up for Mad Love.
Or rather, middle finger up.