JoJo, Mad Love | Album Review
After 10 long years, urban-pop musician JoJo returns with a respectable third studio album, Mad Love.
10 years. That’s how long it’s been since JoJo released her sophomore album, The High Road. In the music biz, a decade can be career suicide. Luckily, it can also open new doors, in the right circumstances. While it is hard to tell how effective the return of JoJo will be commercially, critically, her third album, Mad Love, offers ample promise.
Mad Love commences surprisingly with a ballad “Music.” “Music” was released as a promo track, and initially came over as sound but not rousing. Listening contextually, it’s more moving and meaningful. JoJo sings classily with undeniable authenticity. The pace changes on “I Can Only,” featuring rising urban-pop singer/songwriter Alessia Cara. “I Can Only” is slick and chocked full of swagger. Unapologetic, neither girl gives a bleep.
“I ain’t apologizing for shit.” Keeping things unapologetic, explicit, yet superb, single “F*ck Apologies,” featuring Wiz Khalifa, arrives. The single marked a bold return for JoJo, who refuses to apologize because she “didn’t do nothing wrong.” The chorus is the selling point:
“What you want from me? / I would say I’m sorry if I really meant it / f*ck apologies / I would say I’m sorry if I really meant it / I’m not perfect, I got pride / that’s not what it is this time / so f*ck apologies / I would say I’m sorry if I really meant it / if I, if I, if I really meant it.”
“FAB” continues feistiness that characterizes Mad Love. She trades Wiz for Remy Ma. Expectedly, “FAB.” Is slickly produced and driven by profanity. It’s heavy-handed in this regard, but JoJo clearly executes her point and earns another catchy chorus in the process. Title track “Mad Love,” a ballad, is a welcome change of pace, finding her singing angelically. “Mad Love” masterfully revisits classic soul.
“You give me mad love / how far can we go? Nobody knows / You give me bad love / but I’ll take what I get, I’m starvin’ for it / like I’ve never had love / you keep me insane and I’m not ashamed / don’t-give-a-damn love / I want you so bad, love / you give me.”
“Vibe” contrasts the serious “Mad Love” in favor of gimmicky, electro-, reggae-infused pop. Drenched in sex and swag, the record eschews substance. Regardless, it’s fun. “Honest” finds JoJo drenched in reverb. Somewhat confusing, it deceptively begins like a ballad and eventually winds up being another soundly executed urban-pop record.
“Like This” is sex-driven, period. Over its course, JoJo sings seductively, enticing the listener as much as she’s enticing her boo:
“He told me that he like this, he like this / he wanna take his time with me, like this / let me show you how I wind it, like this…/ take your body downtown…”
The first thing that comes to mind with “Edibles” is weed. Indeed, “Edibles” encompasses getting high (“If you wanna come eat edibles…”). It also encompasses sex (“do some freaky shit, incredible / I’m your girl, I’m your girl…”). The weed references, coupled with sex, are amplified on the bridge:
“Green candies melting us together / I feel higher up than Fenway Park / is it your fingers giving tingles or this / Hydroponic daily spark? / Meet me in the dark / I need you here 10 P.M. sharp…”
“High Heels” ranks among the feistiest moments, as well as the crème de la creme. A kiss-off to a cheating boyfriend, JoJo calls him a “bad motherf*cker.” She DGAF, whatsoever:
“I put my high heels on, walk right out the door / best believe, I’m a leave, don’t need you no more / put my black dress on, boy you’ve done me wrong / leave the keys, burn the sheets and then move along / I’m a look damn good for all your friends / don’t cry when you see me again / I put my high heels on.”
On closer “I Am” (standard edition of Mad Love), she takes a kinder, gentler approach to heartbreak. She’s not scorned, but builds herself up as being “worthy of love.” It’s a fitting closing from a talented artist. The deluxe edition adds four additional songs: “Clovers,” “Reckless,” “Good Thing” and “Rise Up.”
All in all, Mad Love is a respectable, enjoyable return by JoJo. It doesn’t reinvent pop or urban contemporary music, but it’s solidly constructed. Vocally, JoJo sounds compelling throughout, even when a given song isn’t a home run.
Gems: “Music.,” “F*ck Apologies,” “Mad Love.,” “Edibles” & “High Heels”
JoJo • Mad Love • Atlantic • Release: 10.14.16
Photo Credit: Atlantic