Don't let Jojo's appearance fool you: This fifteen-year-old pop singer looks like she could have been a Mean Girls extra, but she has talent. On The High Road, her second solo album, Jojo comes off more like a pint-size Mariah Carey or Christina Aguilera than a hip-shaking Brittney clone. And she has some serious chops and the production team to back her up.
Her 2004 self-titled debut is a strong set of R&B-flavored pop that showcased her immense voice and powerful presence. The High Road is another solid set of soulful pop, but the album marks a leap in maturity for Jojo, whose material ventures into moodier and more understated territory.
If you've heard any of Jojo's singles on the radio, disregard them. As an adolescent white girl singing mainstream R&B, her singles have leaned toward pop to snag sales. The ploy has worked: she's a multi-platinum artist. But the list of producers on The High Road -- Scott Storch, Swizz Beatz, Ryan Leslie, and Soulshock & Karlin -- shows that Jojo is more concerned with harder beats and soulful sounds.
The sound is glossy, beginning with the up-tempo opening salvo of the Scott Storch-helmed "This Time" and the frenetic Swizz production "The Way You Do Me." But then the record settles into its groove, resting at a nice mid-tempo. Album highpoint "Anything" cleverly samples Toto's "Africa," but what could have been a cheesy '80s reference is grounded by Jojo's strong vocal performance. In fact, despite all the high-caliber talent on the album, no one shines brighter than Jojo herself.
At times it's hard to conceive that a fifteen-year-old can sing with such emotion and conviction. She dominates the Ryan Leslie-produced "Like That" in a way that Cassie could only dream of, and she rips through two Diane Warren-penned tunes, most significantly the chilling "Note to God." The lead single "Too Little Too Late" may be cheesy, but try not to hold it against her. The High Road is pop and it is mainstream, but it is produced with quality. Jojo may look like another pop tart, but we'll likely be seeing her for quite a while.
Label: http://www.blackground.com/Audio: http://www.myspace.com/jojoonline
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