Christmas came early for pretty much every adolescent of the mid 2000s, when pop/R&B singer-songwriter Joanna “JoJo” Levesque celebrated her birthday on Friday 20th December by re-releasing her first two albums JoJo and The High Road – and to a vocal army of touched, nostalgic, and appreciative fans.
“Why?” is the obvious question. Well, the story behind it is quite remarkable and inspiring.
Most of us remember the young Bostonian singer’s big, attitude-filled arrival in 2004 with the hit “Leave (Get Out)”, which was followed up in 2006 by “Too Little Too Late” (both recorded when JoJo was just 12 and 14, respectively). But many don’t know that soon after those early successes, Levesque, now 28, began to experience many difficulties with her former label Blackground Records, which delayed the release of a third album, and kept her for over seven years in a recording contract with seemingly no way out.
JoJo sued the label and was freed from the contract in 2013, going on to release her third consecutive top-10 album Mad Love in 2016, this time with Atlantic Records.
But then her old music – the material which had launched her career, won her so many fans, and of which she is still fond and proud – began to disappear from online digital platforms and streaming services, with no explanation. And if JoJo had a penny for every time somebody asked her where her first two albums went… she’d have a lot of pennies.
Last month, she responded to a tweet asking why none of her old music was on iTunes, saying that she was “working to fix [it]”.
Oh. This is what she meant.
Both albums, now available to stream and download on all major online music platforms, in addition to the singles “Disaster” and “Demonstrate” (originally from 2011 and 2012, respectively), have been re-recorded, the production cleverly recreated, and the cover art imaginatively reworked, and it might just be the best thing to come out of the bad situation.
If you thought that the passion and soul that came from that young, innocent girl was incredible then, you should hear the adult versions now. The wear and tear in those lyrics is instantly discernible, and the literal experience in that voice is powerfully moving.
It cannot be emphasised enough, the grace, dedication, and resilience that JoJo possesses. She re-recorded two-albums’ worth of songs from over a decade ago, all complete with backing vocals (of which there are so many layers and intricate harmonies) and replicated ad-libs, with some fresh ones thrown in too. Not to mention the work of the producers (Klynik and Jordan XL) to achieve 95 per cent of the sound from the originals (purposely, for copyright reasons). She literally went out of her way to do this, and neither did she have to, nor – when you remember the reason for it – should she have had to.
In the caption of a behind-the-scenes video uploaded to her Instagram account, Levesque told of her immense overwhelm by the response to the re-releases and her motivation behind the project.
“This is for my day 1s. This is for the amazing creatives who shaped these songs with me… And this is for me. For healing. Reclaiming my time and my history.”
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Wow. Your response to me re-recording my first two albums has taken my breath away. I’ve tried to read through literally every single comment!!! You guys are making me sooooo emo!!!! What the hellllllll, to see an album I first made at 12 and another at 15 at the top of the iTunes album charts is just CRAZY. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea (and my team checked allllll the legalities to see that it would be ok!!) but I was SO SICK of seeing my fans day in and day out ask me where my old shit was. Not being able to give them what they deserve made me so mad. I’ve felt out of control for so long, and I WAS FUCKING TIIIIIIIIIIIIIIED. I couldn’t stand for it. This is for my day 1s. This is for the amazing creatives who shaped these songs with me (and so they can finally collect the publishing that is rightfully theirs!). And this is for me. For healing. Reclaiming my time and my history. I am currently making the best music of my life for this new album. And I wanted to make sure that I saged myself so I could enter 2019 with lightness and space to be TOTALLY FREE. Getting this project off my chest feels SO GOOD and it means the world to me seeing you living with it/ loving it/ sharing it/ supporting it. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. NEW MUSIC 2019. Love, Jo.
The words ‘Clover Music’, JoJo’s own imprint label with Interscope*, are a welcome sight under the copyright credits for these new recordings. Her old label may have for a time hindered her career and removed the old versions, but the new ones, as JoJo would and can now absolutely say: “You can’t take that away from me.”
*UPDATE 3/2/19: It has been reported that JoJo has moved her imprint label from Interscope to Warner Bros. Records.
All of JoJo’s 2018 re-releases are available on all major streaming and download sites.
Featured photo by Doug Krantz.
Artwork for JoJo’s 2018 re-releases by Cristina Martinez.