Artist Spotlight: JoJo

So of late, the young American R&B and pop singer JoJo has been a bit off the radar, music-wise; in fact her last album, The High Road, was released way back in 2006. Since then she has been writing and recording for her official follow-up album, “Jumping Trains” (due out later this year), however after acknowledging on her blog about difficulties with her record label, she released a mixtape late last year called “Can’t Take That Away From Me”, which you can get entirely for free from here, the only caveat being you have to enter your e-mail address first.

Album artwork for the mixtape "Can't Take That Away From Me"

I have to say I was initially worried by articles linking to this mixtape suggesting it was going to be a bit experimental and not indicative of the official album to follow, as artists in the past that have decided to pursue their inner voice after spats with their music label have often ended up releasing material that is a little sub-standard to their previous work. An example would be Kelly Clarkson and her third album, “My December”, much as I love her and her voice, this album paled in comparison to the excellent Breakaway and her thankfully superb, most recent effort, “All I Ever Wanted”.

However, having listened to this mixtape a couple of times now I can happily pass on the reassurance that it is fantastic and for an 11-track freebie is well worth entering in your e-mail address to get it. It has the production value and hit ratio of an official release, so if you are a fan of JoJo fan it is well worth taking the time to download. From this mixtape JoJo decided to release “In the Dark” as a single and I have to say the production and her vocals on it remind me of the excellent up-and-coming artist Sophia Somajo; JoJo even made a video for the song (linked to below) which is serviceable if not mind-blowing. It is at least in keeping with the tone of the song and does appear like some thought was put in to it rather than merely being a disposable afterthought used to promote the song, as is the case with pretty much every dance or hip-hop video ever made.

Other highlights on the album are the solo-penned track “Why Didn’t You Call”, the Summery acoustic guitar-driven “Just a Dream”, and the  brilliant duet with Travis Garland, “When Does It Go Away”, with its soaring harmonies and rolling bassline, it’s on a level with, and evocative of, much of the wonderful, melody-rich work by Brandy and Darkchild. There is also the fun, frantic song, “My Time Is Money”, which has hit single written all over it, and the 80s lilt of the soulful R&B number “What You Like”. All in all, this album hits a high standard from the off and maintains it throughout.

JoJo also rather impressively has writing credits for all but one track on this album. This may sound a little patronising to say something like this, but from her previous albums she had barely any writing input so her writing ability was a fairly unknown quantity; though admittedly this could be down to the fact that she was in her very early teens and then mid-teens for her first and second album respectively. I would imagine that she was probably just seen as this incredible vocal  talent that the music labels would draft in writers to pen hits for her, perhaps proven by her disgruntlement with her label.

Rather pleasingly it’s good to find out that JoJo seems to be equally talented in the song writing department as the performing department. Certainly it’s easy to write-off young stars as merely being products of the big, bad music industry that exploits them for a few years, rakes in millions, then spits their spent carcasses out at the other end, often leaving them to a life of depression, drugs or disillusionment; sometimes even a heady mix of all three. Hopefully, in an optimal environment someone will foster and mentor JoJo’s young talent, and she will have a long career ahead of her in the music industry. Luckily for her, even if in the fickle music industry she personally doesn’t succeed as a long-term performer, she can still potentially rake in the money by writing mega-hits for other artists. Cathy Dennis, anyone? Until “Jumping Trains” is released later this year, JoJo fans new and old can at least get their aural fix with this mixtape which is a phenomenal stopgap, more so for being entirely free. Go get it!


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