Favorites: So Bad, Gold
Overall: A seductive musical narrative that's actually R&B, and not diet hip-hop.
The amount of unsung and/or underrated music acts is so innumerable, there’s a whole television series dedicated to profiling them. If an artist doesn’t have a proper time in the sun, it’s usually for one of three causes. One, they sabotaged themselves. Two, their professional team stifled them, or three, audiences were indifferent toward them for some reason. For Joanna “JoJo” Levesque, it was option two.
If you’re not already familiar, JoJo rose to fame at age 13, being known as “the little white girl with a big, soulful voice.” She was steered into the pop market, and hits like “Leave (Get Out)” and “Too Little, Too Late” helped her become the youngest solo act to top the Billboard Hot 100. The attention lead to film opportunities, which her recording label reportedly wasn’t thrilled about. This was just the beginning of her troubles with Blackground Records. As the company folded, JoJo found herself locked into a contract and unable to release material. A decade would pass before she could let anything out commercially, losing critical years. Aside from die-hard fans, listeners who knew her had the impression she left the industry. Fresh ones couldn’t discover her because her work wasn’t available on streaming platforms (she re-recorded songs to get around this). She eventually signed with Atlantic Records, but her time with them was brief, as she desired more "ownership." After developing her own imprint, Clover Music, she ultimately took her business to Warner.
Promotional single “Joanna” arrived with a visual in October 2019. In it, JoJo sings from the perspective of critics and disgruntled long-term fans. People bum rush past her, trying to get to a glitzy star in a limo. She concludes with “You were supposed to be somebody, you were supposed to make more money, make us proud...nobody likes you in Massachusetts, you should just hurry and drop your new shit,” wearing a sly grin. She was putting followers on notice that she wasn’t giving up and she’d be making her third major attempt at standing in the sun.
JoJo’s stepped out with Good to Know (stylized as good to know), which chronicles her seesaw between maladaptive coping behaviors and those that are constructive. She and the production team did an excellent job personifying the misleading and insidious lure of vices. Lido, Doc McKinney, Noise Club, and others gave sound to self-destruction masked with pleasure and hedonism from moment one. Opener “So Bad” has seductive, yet equally ominous energy. On the infidelity tune, a muffled fluttering piano rises to a dramatic radiating bass, layered with yowling synths and womanly moans. JoJo herself convincingly plays two parts. In the chorus, she's a confident mistress who’s thrilled by hiding in plain sight. In the verses, she emits desperation and insatiability. She pleads for more attention, and is adamant she’s the best option for her pursuit.