BY ANISHA PAI ’19
There is no denying JoJo’s vocal talent in her album, “Mad Love,” released Oct. 14, 2016. This is the artist’s third studio album, released almost exactly 10 years after her second album, “The High Road.”
In “Mad Love,” the R&B singer shines on vocal-driven tracks like “Music” and “I Am” while other parts of the album fade into the generic swamp of mainstream pop music.
The lead singles, “Fuck Apologies (feat. Wiz Khalifa)” and “FAB (feat. Remy Ma),” fall flat when faced with more experimental tracks such as “Honest.” Mean- while, forgettable tracks like “Edibles” and “Clovers” compromise the range of style that JoJo showcases from the jazzy and soulful “Mad Love” to the dancehall banger “Vibe.”
JoJo’s vulnerability and strength come through in her lyrics. The ballad “I Am” has her belting, “I am worthy of love / am I strong enough?”
The track comes after “High Heels,” a slow, strong beat, drenched in swagger in which she declares, “best believe, I’mma leave / don’t need you no more.”
The 25-year-old singer makes it clear that all of the ‘mad love’ in the album fuels her own self-acceptance.
A day before the release of the album, JoJo penned an article for Motto, an online women’s magazine, detailing her struggles with body image and her path to self-love.
“The president of my former label sat me down and told me that losing weight was about my health,” she said.
According to Billboard.com, the Massachusetts-based singer began performing on shows such as “Kids Say The Darndest Things” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show” when she was 6. At age 12, she signed onto Blackground Records and, the following year, became the youngest solo artist to achieve a number one single on the US Billboard chart.
Spending her formative years in the limelight and constantly being compared to fellow celebrities brought JoJo to an unhealthy place. In her Motto article, JoJo talks about how she struggled to fit the music industry’s idea of a perfect pop star.
“Today, the comparison game is one I will not play,” she said, “When you accept who you are, it’s only a matter of time before others have no choice but to follow suit.”
At 15, during the release of her second album, “The High Road,” JoJo knew she had a lot of growing to do and decided not to release another new album before she turned 18. “I want to live and experience things. That’s something that’s important,” she told MTV in 2006.
Unfortunately, Blackground Records blanked her requests to release a new album, forcing her into a prolonged hiatus.
JoJo told Buzzfeed in 2013 that she had gone through at least three variations of her third album but couldn’t release it. She was bound by a seven-album contract she had signed with the label, who had by then severed all contact with the singer and her team.
In 2014, five years after she first sued Blackground Records, Billboard reported that JoJo had been released from her restrictive contract and had signed onto Atlantic Records.
JoJo released three EPs in one year: “LoveJo,” “III.” (pronounced “tringle,” as the EP) and “LoveJo2,” featuring a combination of covers and new music.
Since July 2016, the singer has been opening for the US leg of Fifth Harmony’s 7/27 tour. According to Popcrush.com, JoJo released her studio album as the tour moved to South America.
The opening track “Music” encompasses the slightly off-kilter feel of the album. JoJo begins the ballad as an ode to the role of music in her life, singing, “and every song I made turned into wishes.”
By the last verse, the song becomes about her father who passed away in November 2015, just months after she had repaired her relationship with him, according to MTV. She sings, “my only hope is that he’s looking down thinking ‘oh my God, my daughter’s doing it now.’”
“Mad Love” struggles to strike a meaningful balance between pop songs and the interesting vocal experimentation that her EPs feature.
Certainly, JoJo has grown as both a vocalist and a songwriter since “The High Road.” She helped write all 16 tracks in Mad Love, telling 103.5 KTU that the process was therapeutic.
If you only listen to one song on the al- bum, listen to the eponymous “Mad Love.” The minimalist big-band instrumentals allow JoJo’s vocals to take center stage, and the effect is subtle but stunning.
JoJo’s love for dipping in and out of different pop and R&B genres indicates great potential for a more cohesive album in the future. For now, “Mad Love” is a taste of JoJo’s vigor as a singer and as a human being.