Remember the ’00s pop/R&B hits “Leave (Get Out)” and “Too Little Too Late”? Well, the ever-talented songstress from my tweenage years is back with a new single, and hopefully soon, a new album. JoJo dropped “Sabotage (feat. CHIKA)” a few days ago, and I’m here for it.
Yes, it’s been a minute since most people have seen or thought about JoJo–born Joanna Noëlle Levesque–but in that minute she grew from girl to woman on her own terms, and her music reflects it. After being embroiled in label drama that held her career hostage for a decade, her 2016 album Mad Love, was a solid and necessary step forward for JoJo’s career. For her fans, who, like me, have since grown up, Mad Love was a way to reconnect and reflect on the journey into adulthood. JoJo’s new sound, while certainly different than what we heard in 2004, was age-appropriate in both style and substance, and showcased her songwriting talents and musical flexibility.
Teen stars tend to have tumultuous transitions into adulthood, with few able to successfully navigate the drama. JoJo, for better or for worse, was able to avoid all that, and essentially re-debut as an adult artist while maintaining name recognition. (If there’s any doubt she’s still got a huge base of loyal fans, check out this amazing video of JoJo performing “Too Little Too Late” with a crowd singing along to every word.) Her singing chops haven’t changed, but everything feels so much more authentic. “Joanna”, which she released two weeks ago, is an ode to her life’s story and where she’s heading now.
You can tell that JoJo is now drawing her music from real experiences–a stark contrast from when she was 13 and singing about being cheated on and lied to before she’d ever been kissed. “Sabotage” dives into the complicated feelings of mourning a relationship where you might have been your own undoing. The jazzy bass lines and vocal riffs pay homage to JoJo’s R&B roots. The slower tempo and minimal instrumentals give breathing room to her signature breezy runs, now much more effortless after years of experience.
The song also features a slick bridge by CHIKA (Jane Chika Oranika), a rising star ‘femcee’ who went viral last year for dissing Kanye West over his political views while rapping over Jesus Walks”. The duo take their own perspectives on regrets and past relationships in “Sabotage” and pull it all together in a solid track.
I’m hyped to hear the rest of the album when it comes out. “Joanna” definitely caught my attention and keeps coming back to me in the wee hours when I least expect, even more so than her re-recorded past hits. In her latest releases, JoJo sounds more grounded and ready to take on the music industry than ever, and she’s definitely got the skills to chart. In an interview last year, she stated:
“I want to write in a way to where I’m being completely transparent to where it speaks particularly to young women. I want it to be hard. I want beats to be hard and I want the content to be real. I have nothing to hide and I just want to be as raw as possible.”JoJo, on MTV’s TRL
I’m ready for the real, so cheers to JoJo and her glow up. Are you ready to hear more?