Debuting at age 13, JoJo (real name Joanna Levesque) took the world by storm with her crazy soprano pipes and an understated maturity that existed in her vocal delivery. The two, along with some insanely catchy lyrics, helped propel her debut single, ‘Leave (Get Out)’ to No. 1 at Pop radio in 2004. Sure, as a teen she was marketed to pop audiences; however, there has always been an innate soulfulness that has resided within her.
While it took her two more albums, ‘The High Road‘ and ‘Mad Love,’ and a number mixtapes to achieve the conviction and a sense of self that backs up her soulful pipes, the now 29-year-old has finally done so with her newest album ‘Good To Know.’
Its acoustic incarnation arrived and adds a refreshed layer to the project.
Join us below, where we dive into JoJo’s latest offering…
The LP sets sail with the delicate sensuality of ‘So Bad.’ A song that sets the tone of freedom for the rest of the album, JoJo takes command over the pounding piano to ensure that she is in charge here.
For much of the album, JoJo walks a fine line between her typical powerhouse vocal display and a more gentle, sultry delivery. From the breezy, California-esque atmosphere that surrounds ‘Small Things’ to the unbridled and unhinged belts that surround the confessional climax of ‘Don’t Talk Me Down,’ the 29-year-old proves that she has finally gained full control of the marvel that is her voice.
Produced by A Pluss, Noise Club, and Lido, ‘Gold’ serves as one of the many standouts across the project. Destined to grace bedrooms all across the globe, JoJo made the equivalent of a stripped-down version of Madonna’s ‘Like A Prayer’ with its comparisons of divinity and sex (“You’re moving inside of me speaking so heavenly I call that divinity”).
Elsewhere, the album continues its celebrations of sex and freedom such as on the slick, burning R&B ballad ‘Comeback.’ The singer swaps out Tory Lanez and 30 Roc for a solo version that is positively X-rated from start to finish (“With the lights off you can see me feel you right underneath me”).
However, ‘Good To Know’ is not afraid to shy away from sex to focus on more personal themes. For example, on ‘Think About You’ the singer must rely on her own voice as her guide in this harmonious track. Getting points for its mature lyrics, “It was my fault we’re broken,” since she takes accountability for her actions. It’s a rare detail seen now days.
A minute flaw on an impressive body of work, ‘Pedialyte’ arguably takes away from the overall emotional journey across the project. For a singer who has always been lyrically and vocally beyond her years, the lyrics reflect more of an experience a frat boy would recount (“I don’t know if I’m hungover or if I’m drunk right now”). For an artist who exuded such maturity across the remainder of the album, it doesn’t swim in the deepest of waters.
Still, ‘Good To Know’ is redeemed by tracks such as ‘Lonely Hearts’ and ‘Man’. With the latter featuring a powerful statement: love one’s self first and others will follow (set against the tender strums of an acoustic guitar). The Elizabeth Lowell Boland co-penned ‘Hearts’ is anything but problematic as JoJo finds herself conflicted between healing herself and a tryst at the Roosevelt.
With this LP, JoJo delivers a sonically cohesive and personal body of work. In an era where maximalism is pushed to the extreme, she finds a breath of fresh air with breezier, airy production and calculated vocal control. While not without its faults, ‘Good To Know’ nonetheless remains as a testament to who she is now.
More importantly, the album serves as an announcement that the singer has found her voice and can finally become the artist she was destined to be.
That Grape Juice Rating: