Yes. Fire up your boom boxes because the girl we grew up with, the singer who gave us the unforgettable ‘Leave (Get Out)’, ‘Too Little Too Late’ and ‘Baby It’s You’ is BACK and killing it. Her latest album Mad Love drops October 14th (omg). At just 13 JoJo was ruling the charts with her powerful, vibrant voice and her eternally catchy songs. Her lip glossed smile was plastered across all of our bedroom walls and her songs provided the perfect soundtrack to every slumber party and school carpool.
With Mad Love JoJo reintroduces us to her impressive vocal range and unmistakable husk. It’s mournful soul like ‘Music.’ meets empowering sing along ballads like ‘Fuck Apologies’ and ‘FAB’. It’s an album that’s both tender and strong, romantic and heart broken. This new album has a heavier emotional register than her early work, she sings not only about the pain of losing people we love but the pain of losing oneself. The former teen megastar has been embroiled in a lengthy legal battle over the last 10 years fighting for freedom from her previous label. Full of new found strength and spirit the pop singer proves that she’s back in the game with Mad Love.
I thought we could start by talking about the transition from your music as a teenager to your mix-tape Agápē to your new record Mad Love.
I think my new record is kind of a blend of what my mainstream pop fans have expected from me in the past mixed with what I was experimenting with on Agápē. Agápē was just kind of something that I did with my friends, there was no label concern, there was no thoughts of making a hit, there was no thoughts of playing the game essentially. I made this album in the same spirit but I also wanted to write songs that could be peppy anthems for young women. When you’ve been in the major label system since you were 12 years old you kind of know what’s expected of you so being able to do mixed tapes as my outlet while I was going through my law suit allowed me to find the creativity in my voice. I think you can hear that on Mad Love, I just feel more confident as a collaborator and I feel very comfortable being vulnerable rather than trying to be something other than who I am.
What made you stay in the industry? Did you ever just think I don’t want to deal with this anymore?
I don’t really like the industry but I love music more than I dislike the industry. I didn’t want the business to get in the way of this dream that I started on when I was a little girl. I decided to fight for what I love most, because I do love this life, you know? I love playing shows, I love connecting with people. I really don’t mind the promotion aspect of it. All of it is fun. The bottom line is that I love people, I believe in people I don’t believe in companies. That was the deciding factor for me.
Do you feel like your fans have kind of grown up with you? Like you’ve kept a lot of the same fans and you guys have all gone through different periods of life together?
That’s really is how it feels. A lot of people would come up to me and be like ‘You’re my childhood and I feel like we grew up together’ and we did! We went through middle school, high-school, college. Social media is really what allowed us to stay in contact, my fans gave me life by letting me know that they were there for me and that they cared, that they wanted new music. It does feel like we’ve gone through life experiences together, whether it’s heart- break or celebration, whether it’s loss, whether its triumph, all of us experience that once we’re in our early to mid twenties.
Can we talk about what actually happened with the record deal? Why did you want to break free from the contract?
After my second album I did a couple movies. I got the feeling that my record label was not happy that they weren’t making a cut of the money that I was making outside of them. It went sour. They weren’t doing anything to show me that they were going to put my third album out, or that they even had the means to put it out. They didn’t have distribution for a while, they didn’t have an office anymore, so I just kind of kept falling victim to what they were going through and I knew that I needed to break free from that if I was going to continue with my career.
Did that give you that concept of freedom that you had with Agape? There’s a bit of everything in it, one minute it might be free styling or getting drunk with friends and then another it’s soulful and heartbreaking. Did you just feel like I’m not concerned about anyone else, I’m going to embrace my freedom and throw out this mix-tape?
Yeah, it was just literally a product of me sitting with my friends at my friend Austin Brown’s apartment, me and my boys just talking shit and writing through what was going on and I incorporated some voice notes from my phone. It was a welcome freedom for me because I had always known the type of pop songs that my label was looking for me to do. For the most part I was cool with it but just to have that chance of not having that pressure on me was something that was refreshing so I played with it.
Do you feel like you’ve taken that element of kind of playfulness with you to the new record? How have you come at the new record in the studio, what’s your process like?
Yes, I have. When I first signed with Atlantic I had a lot of stress, not from them but from myself. I had a lot of anxiety because I wanted to develop a good relationship with them and I wanted things to feel like OK we know what we have here and we want to take her to the top. Once I kind of rid myself of that anxiety after being in the studio for a year I was then just really able to find my voice and find the fun in it. When I signed to Atlantic I was signed by Bruno Mars and then about 9 months into it he left for Interscope. That was another time when I was kinda left abandoned and didn’t have anybody to bounce things off of. After he left I really took things into my own hands and found a group of people that helped me make the album that I wanted to make.
Can you tell us about the kind of sound that we can expect on the new record?
The sound is definitely inspired by the things I grew up listening to as well as the things that I’m listening to now. I feel like our generation doesn’t want to be defined by labels or confined to genres and I don’t either. I’m fine with calling this a pop album because I like the word popular. I want it to reach a wide range of people but I have no desire to try and be a perfect package or say anything that isn’t true to myself. On this album you can hear how much hip- hop has influenced me, at the end of the day I’m a soul singer so whatever the song is I’m going to put my heart and soul into it and you’re going to hear that grit. As far as the subject matter, Mad Love is all about love but it’s not just romantic love, it’s self-love and lack thereof, it’s about my family. It’s about love and sex and loss too. I just wanted it to be a slice of life. Of course I wanted it to be for boys and girls, men and women, but because I am a young woman I wanted to stay true to my experience of that.
It sounds like everything has just really come together with this record, is that how you feel?
It took me a long time to arrive at this place where I’m comfortable with who I am and confident with leading. Some days are easier than others; there are times when I’m unsure or I have anxiety. Of course I’m anxious to release this record and have people receive it. For me I just felt like this is the beginning of the rest of my life and I feel like it’s an incredible foundation for me to set. I’m building from here.