There's a reason so many music fans have been anxiously awaiting the adult metamorphosis of Joanna "JoJo" Levesque: the seeds of pop stardom that she flashed during her teenage years blossomed into unparalleled promise in her early 20's. A pair of albums in the mid-2000's hinted at a vocal power and songwriting prowess that would expand as JoJo left her childhood behind, and as new music began trickling out, anticipation for a proper next step grew to a fever pitch. When would JoJo's wildly talented voice be heard?
The highly-anticipated moment has finally arrived. JoJo has made good on the promise of her early years and delivered a next chapter so engrossing that it cannot be denied. Armed with a new project of gorgeous pop, soulful R&B and absurdly catchy dance music, JoJo has spent the past half-decade collecting the experiences that will comprise her Atlantic Records debut. It's a project sure to exceed the expectations of her longtime supporters, and bring in a slew of new fans as well.
"I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of showing who I am," says JoJo. "It’s weird to be talking about a comeback at 24, but that’s my adventure. I have a story to tell -- and what I’m really working on is having fun with the process of telling it."
JoJo's comeback story started years ago, after the Massachusetts product from a blue-collar background scored a No.1 spot on the Billboard Pop Songs chart for her empowering pop anthem, "Leave (Get Out)”. The smash hit quickly became a radio staple when JoJo was only 13, making her the youngest solo artist to have a number-one single in the United States. Two years later, JoJo released another hit, "Too Little Too Late", which climbed to No. 3 on the chart. Unfortunately, problems with her label, Blackground Records, prevented a third album from materializing, and multiple attempts to remove herself from the label were thwarted.
JoJo kept recording for love of the art and as the only way she knew to stay connected with her fans. After moving to Los Angeles, she began working with top-line producers like Boi-1da and Noah “40” Shebib and released two critically acclaimed pop-R&B mixtapes (2010’s Can’t Take That Away from Me and 2012’s Agápë). As the years passed and she continued to experience difficulties with Blackground Records, JoJo’s family wondered if she should go to college and leave her dreams behind. JoJo could have given up, but refused to.
“The past six years has really humbled me, it’s rocked me to the core, it hurt the shit out of me,” she admits. “For me in particular, when you’re famous from a really young age and then that light is not shining as brightly on you, it makes you feel like, ‘Well, maybe I’m not good.’ I had to find ways to like myself with or without that success, and that’s really changed me."
JoJo spent years reflecting upon and perfecting her craft while waiting for her label situation to change -- building herself up even beneath the weight of a bad recording contract. By the end of 2013, when she was legally freed from Blackground Records at last, she was more than ready to display herself as a stronger artist and person. JoJo found a new home at Atlantic Records, which was thrilled to give the dynamic artist a fresh start in early 2014. For JoJo, the decision to join a roster of Bruno Mars, Paramore, Fun., and Jill Scott was an easy one: "Atlantic seemed to be invested in the long run of artists, and I felt there was room for me to grow there," she says.
In the spring of 2014, JoJo set forth creating a new album that captured her adult life and musical addictions. She sang about love when she was 13, but now she had actually experienced love and loss. When she first began recording, she was one of the few mainstream artists to heavily incorporate hip-hop and R&B into pop – a creative experimentation which has since become common practice of pop artists today. JoJo’s new album was set to continue that trend, while exploring the deep house music she’d heard and adored at L.A. clubs.
The result is a project that is impossible not to dance to, but one that doesn’t sacrifice JoJo's inherent soulfulness or finesse in crafting classic pop ballads. It's a freeing listening experience, and JoJo's only rule was to look forward instead of dwell on the past.
"I was really inspired by the concept of the ‘house diva,’" JoJo explains. "I listened to Whitney, Mariah and Aretha, and they were able to really sing with emotion but on uptempo records. More than anything, I wanted to celebrate. I didn’t want it to be all about my story and what I’ve been through, because everybody’s been through something. I just wanted to focus on the triumph that I felt."
For her upcoming album, JoJo recorded with artists like MNEK, the U.K. dance maestro behind recent hits for Madonna and Little Mix. First up, JoJo has a trio of singles -- "When Love Hurts," "Save My Soul" and "Say Love" -- that will serve as an epic reintroduction, with JoJo's magnetic voice holding together a swirl of explosive pop production grounded in the sleek accessibility of dance music. The singles include an impressive roster of producers: the gorgeous power-ballad “Say Love” was produced by Harmony “H-Money” Samuels; The Family helmed the heartfelt track “Save My Soul”, and Jason Evigan and Benny Blanco took the lead on the infectious club-banger “When Love Hurts”.
“I came into the recording process with an open heart and mind. The album ended up taking the shape of my favorite subject to sing about: love...what can come with it and from it. Of course, since romantic love isn't the only thing on me and my girlfriends minds, I wanted to make sure I explored the subject of self- love and lack thereof. It's something I've definitely struggled with on & off, and I talk about it on the album. I also wanted to have FUN! So a lot of the spirit of the uptempo records is that of triumph, personal freedom and expression.”
The highly anticipated third album will include the three singles, as well as a number of additional soulful uptempos and pop ballads. It's an exciting beginning to an opportunity that JoJo prayed would finally arrive -- and one that she will make the most of over the coming months.
"I’m anxious, because it’s been a long time coming," says JoJo, "but I don’t get hung up on the fact that it’s been a long time. The time is now."