Last December, JoJo re-recorded her first two albums—2004’s “JoJo” and 2006’s “The High Road”—along with past singles “Disaster” and “Demonstrate.” Instead of searching on YouTube and digging up childhood CDs, fans can now stream the singer’s formative works in a new way.
The 2018 versions of her debut hit “Leave (Get Out),” the classic “Too Little Too Late” and even the underrated “Never Say Goodbye” features more experienced vocals while the 2000s-esque production continues to possess the essence of a teenage JoJo.
This was a major move for her after years of legal battles with her previous record label—calling for a fresh start going into 2019 and allowing her to hone in on her upcoming fourth album. Finally, on Oct. 11, “Joanna”—titled after her real name—kickstarted the rise of a fresh, vulnerable endeavor for JoJo.
Playing the character of her doubters over the years, JoJo nonchalantly sings over a stripped-down guitar. She lays out most of the hurtful statements thrown her way—ranging from “you peaked” to “nobody likes you in Massachusetts”—all out in the open.
The “Joanna” video encapsulates the feeling of being alone in a crowd. As fans run past JoJo to chase another star, she is left reflecting on the chatter of her naysayers. When singing, “Do you still have the same range/That you did when you were 14 girl?,” she effortlessly shows off her vocal range and moves her hand like all our favorite vocalists do when they hit intricate runs—a clever way to put the negative energy back in its place.
At the end, she sings, “You should just hurry and drop your new sh*t.” On Oct. 25, she did just that when she released “Sabotage” featuring rapper CHIKA, which tackles the topic of her recurring patterns of self-sabotage.
“A lot of people self-sabotage… I tend to do it in romantic relationships,” JoJo said in a statement for Billboard. “And I think most of it roots to fear—fear of being inadequate, fear of getting hurt, fear of rejection, fear of not measuring up… This song is about asking a lot of questions, dealing with shame and embarrassment, and really just owning up to certain patterns.”
Starting off with a groovy bassline, “Sabotage” follows the similar pattern of “Joanna” in terms of its vulnerable lyrics as she asks herself, “Everytime I hear them talking ’bout you/I wonder did I play myself/And sabotage love?” The stylish production of Doc McKinney—known for his work with The Weeknd—meshes exceptionally with her sultry, soulful tone.
JoJo’s multi-faceted vocal and lyrical talent shines through especially in the pre-chorus as she sings, “Said you never loved me (Loved me)/Had me ducking all the venom flying out your mouth.” For those who love a song with intricate vocal production and layered harmonies, “Sabotage” fits that mold in a way not many other current tracks embody.
Although JoJo has always been one to embrace honesty through her art like the emotional opener “Music.” from 2016’s “Mad Love.” album, there seems to be even more freedom and focus on the singer’s part as shown through her close-knit studio sessions with other fellow musicians.
“Exactly a year ago I rented an air b&b, set up a studio and got some of my favorite creative friends together to start making my album w me,” JoJo wrote on InstagramLink. “this was one of the best times I’ve ever had. I felt so supported and safe. Safe enough to get really brutally honest and address things I’ve seen and heard about myself for years and sometimes believed.”
With the well-received response of “Joanna” and “Sabotage,” there is a lot of excitement going around for what JoJo has to offer with her fourth studio album—set for a 2020 release—and it is evident through her interactions with fans that she feels it too. Either way, these introductory singles are only a fraction of what’s in store for her next year.
Rylee Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @rybyjackson.