JoJo possesses a voice that her contemporaries dream of. A voice that propelled her to the top of the charts with her precocious pop moment ‘Leave (Get Out)’ over a decade ago. In an unforeseen set of events, JoJo’s output would be trampled under the weight of a decade-long legal battle with her former record label. Now 25, and signed to Atlantic, JoJo has an edge about her, inevitably hardened by that industry experience.
With ‘Mad Love’, JoJo plays catch-up on ubiquitous trends that have dominated radio rotation music the last few years. ‘Like This’, featuring a pressed, pitched vocal flourishes by making use of Trinity-esque The Weeknd prototypes. Title track ‘Mad Love’ employs glossy, vintage pop, a big brassy number that gives JoJo a more natural and sober backdrop to vocalise over. Indeed, her raspy voice elevates the more run-of-the-mill numbers. Capricious and elastic, JoJo can swing from sincere poignancy on piano-laden opener ‘Music’ to gutsier, R&B-inflected mid-tempos like ‘FAB’ which sees her go off on Instagram millennials and clones.
Does ‘Mad Love’ capture the darker, more experimental terrain explored on her intermittent EP and mixtape releases? Not quite, but ‘Mad Love’ is a record that will feel like an emancipation for JoJo and her fans. A record of its time, tracks are shrouded in trendy, distorted atmospherics and a good-girl-gone-bad persona to back it up. It mostly works because JoJo is adaptable as a vocalist and a songwriter, fully invested in the characters she wants to convey. The pin-up girl on the tropical ‘Edibles’, the educator on ‘Like This’, and of course the torch singer on ‘I Am’. It’s an accomplished if somewhat safe set of songs; a JoJo on the cusp of finding her range.
Words: Shahzaib Hussain
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