To say Ms. Joanna Levesque has been absent from the music industry would be an understatement, given that she has been MIA for 10 years. She has had to deal with one of the worst major label disputes in history that prevented her from releasing albums and singles. With self-funding and promotion, JoJo released two mixtapes, “Can't Take That Away from Me” and “Agápē,” which attracted many underground fans who had wondered where the urban-pop queen had been hiding.
JoJo fanatics have been eagerly waiting for her return and were hyped up about the triumphant debut of her latest album, “Mad Love.” However, while the album has its shining moments, it does not do enough to attract the mass market of today’s music in the same way that artists such as Fetty Wap and Lil Yatchy does with both hip-hop and pop music. There were rumors of JoJo completely scrapping her previous material that she had been working on for the last 10 years, though much of it most likely made it to this album because of the reminiscent early 2000’s tones heard throughout.
The first song, “Music,” is an emotional rollercoaster. The ballad welcomes listeners to an inside look at her childhood abuse and her long legal battle with her old label, Blackground Records, all while accentuating her ravishing vocal abilities.
“I Can Only” has the potential of being a big single for JoJo. Mixing elements of 2000’s pop and today’s hits by featuring Alessia Cara, JoJo shows her growth and maturity in both her sound and her personal life. In the song, she states, “I can only do what I wanna do.” Her music is not just for youngsters anymore.
To consider “No Apologies” a strong lead single would be a lie. The song grows on you over time, but it’s not an instant favorite. I’m surprised JoJo did not include songs off her “tringle---3 single EP” release because any one of those songs would have fit the theme of the album and would have been stronger candidates than “No Apologies.” While inviting rapper Wiz Khalifa to join in on the song, JoJo expresses her edginess and attitude that many aren’t used to seeing since she’s been out of the limelight for so long.
The next song on the album, “FAB” (acronym for Fake A** B****es) has potential. I can think of many quotes that can be pulled from this song and used to caption emotional Instagram. “Honey you don’t want my problems. If you had them, you would sink to the bottom.” Upon talking to others though, I was told by most that this song just didn’t make sense and felt forced to be added to her album. The beat throughout was catchy and featured rapper Remy Ma from the hit VH1 show, “Love & Hip Hop,” which assisted in bringing out the roughness throughout the song.
The title track of the album, “Mad Love,” introduces a completely new vibe, almost like a new welcome. JoJo flaunts her vocal range front and center throughout the song as she ranges from a beautiful falsetto to rich, low tones that I’ve never heard her hit before. This song is truly the highlight of the album.
“Vibe” is that song to pre-game to in the car before hitting the clubs on a Saturday night. It has a Selena Gomez-esque feel to it and I can see it being considered for a single on Top 40 radio.
The next song is a slow and sweet ballad with biting and bitter lyrics. “Honest” tells a story of how a relationship can fail and has JoJo expressing her “honest” feelings with repeating the lyrics, “you left me cold.” JoJo plays with sound by combining two songs into one. It would be great for JoJo to release a visual of this masterpiece.
Going back to her R&B roots, JoJo captures the essence of being both sensual and captivating with “Like This.” This song is catchy and she adds in her own ad-libs.
I’m not a fan of “Edibles.” This song was too hyped up. JoJo showcases high and breathy notes and shows her off her vocal growth, yet it still sounds like filler.
“High Heels” is “Sexy To Me” Part II. It’s more infectious and showcases a vibe close to Rihanna by being unapologetic and shamelessly not caring. Who cares about men troubles, this song makes you want to paint the town red with your favorite gal pals for a weekend.
Every artist has demonstrated a version of a titled song “I Am,” but JoJo brings something refreshing to it. The ballad shines bright with her vocal range in this song and it is relatable to anyone that may feel unworthy of love or not strong enough. It’s truly empowering.
“Clovers” for me is like “Edibles,” only filler. It’s experimental but it failed to capture the true JoJo. Lyrically, it’s decent. Maybe it was the EDM sound that threw me off, but it’s nothing special in JoJo’s latest collection of songs.
“Reckless” follows a different beat than the rest of the album. While the other songs either bring a positive message or blame someone else in the fault of a relationship, JoJo blames herself with “Reckless” with lyrics like “I was thinking about me, me, me, me, me.”
When I say that I doubt she scrapped songs throughout her 10-year absence in the spotlight, “Good Thing” is a prime example. It just has that early 2000’s vibe to it. Nothing wrong with that, it just doesn’t flow with the album. The song is a bit overwhelming, but it’s cute.
“Rise Up” finishes off the album with a plea to rise up to conquer the issues that a love she has encounters. Some may feel like she is talking about a lover, while I feel that she was talking about her music. The sound could have some improvement but it displays a positive message and leaves the listener feeling uplifted.
In a Taylor Swift/Rihanna pop-based world, JoJo still has a long way to go. Pop music is different than when she first started a handful of years ago. With a talent like JoJo, it’s fully feasible for her to bounce back. Given the multiple praise-worthy albums of 2016, she’s got to do more to stand out like she once did. This album is not a definite “comeback,” it’s more of a taste of what JoJo can do artistically, lyrically and vocally. If sale goals were made, I strongly feel her next album will be talked about by everyone.