Weighing In On
The last time JoJo released a studio album, the Kardashian Jenneration were tweens, Miley Cyrus just made her acting debut on Disney'sHannah Montana
, and Taylor Swift’s self-titled album only sold 40,000 copies in its first week. That was back in 2006.
But diehard fans of the pop music phenom know that her absence from the charts wasn't something she could control; a ten-year label dispute barred the "Leave [Get Out] singer from legally releasing new music commercially. During her "hiatus," the vocal powerhouse - who can likely outsing most other artists her size -delved deeper into her R&B ways, setting Drake covers aflame and reinvigorating Anita Baker classics with millennial flair.
Under her new deal with Atlantic, #FreeJoJo has returned to the music scene with a splash, releasing a frenzy-inducing "tringle" and returning with a tunnel-vision and work-ethic that she hopes will land her on the charts. That's partially why she and her camp released three singles with varied sounds: More opportunity for a comeback. There's the nod to electro-pop on "When Love Hurts", "Say Love" and its pop/RnB fusion, and a racing pop record, "Save My Soul".
To lock in a hit, the 24 year-old and her team have foregone the risque and sultriness of Agápē (“I'm always coming over and I'm smoking you out/Because everything is better with a blunt in your mouth" ) in favor of lyrics and melodies that are more broadly sticky ("You just say I'm perfect/Say I'm pretty/Say I'm worth It/But if you care for me Say Love").
But that type of switch-up, for any artist with a loyal audience, is risky. “As big a JoJo fan as I am, I am not in love with the new singles," pop-culture critic Michael Arceneaux told me. “ They don't [click] for me as much as they might for the market. I expected something more along the lines of "Demonstrate". And Arceneaux is not alone:
But expecting yesterday's Jojo on today's charts would be unsavvy. With Justin Bieber bookending the Billboard Top 10 with tracks produced by Diplo and Skrillex ("What Do You Mean"/"Where Are You Now"), hoping for a JoJo collabo with Bow Wow seven years later is silly. Not only was she 14 in her heyday, the culture of music has completely shifted before her -- a focus on electro sounds, an upending of albums for streams, a move from music videos to Instagram shorts.
“A true artist can adapt to the changing times," TV host and Z100's Erica America told me via email. And JoJo, like Miley, must evolve or risk alienating an entirely new audience. Imagine, for example, Cyrus continued to sell albums as Hannah Montana. It's unlikely she would have enjoyed the same success, both musically and culturally, as she did with the urban contemporary-leaningBangerz, which to date has sold some 4.5 million copies worldwide.
"What’s going for JoJo [now] is the support of her fans from the past that will still support today, which is always important," Erica noted. They've shown up, pushing the tringle to a combined 3.5 million streams across Spotify and Youtube, despite a slow pick up on radio. But for an artist who has ten years of momentum to make up for, will a solid amount of streams be enough to revive an entire career?
"She has fans like me who have been waiting forever and will do our part to help her get her just due,” Arceneux added. But JoJo must do her part too. " I don’t think this is going to come easy," she told TIME of her return to the scene. "I’m ready to work my ass off. I’m ready to prove I’m supposed to be here.”JoJo's new album is slated for early 2016
PostedSep 11, 2015