|Recording information: Battery Studios, New York, NY; Chalice Studios, Los Angeles, CA; Chaos Theory, Encino, CA; Cryptic Studios, Los Angeles, CA; Glen Oak Studios, Los Angeles, CA; Glenwood Studios, Burbank, CA; Hit Factory Criteria, Miami, FL; Monza Studios, New York, NY; Noisy Neighbor Studios, Los Angeles, CA; Realsongs Studio, West Hollywood, CA; Silent Sound Studios, Atlanta, GA; Sony Studios, New York, NY; Soulpower Studios, Los Angeles, CA; Sound Moves Studios, Sun Valley, CA; The Apartment, New York, NY.
|Released when she was just 13-years-old, vocalist Jojo's 2004 eponymous debut was a bona fide hit album and garnered the young pop star a legion of equally youthful fans, as well as lead roles in two films including the 2006 comedy RV alongside Robin Williams. To say that the release of her 2006 sophomore effort The High Road finds Jojo on the cusp of superstardom is a bit of an understatement. Featuring production and songs by such in demand hit-makers as Swizz Beats, Soulshock and Scott Storch -- the man who made Paris Hilton sound good -- it should come as little surprise that The High Road is a commercially oriented, radio-friendly contemporary pop-R&B album. What may be a surprise is that it is really, really good. These are well-written, catchy pop songs with a healthy dose of hip-hop rhythm that serve as solid launching pads for Jojo's superb vocal abilities. Coming off as a kind of urbanized Jennifer Aniston with the chops of Beyonc?, Jojo is an assured and likeable performer who can somehow embody the yin-yang persona of a suburban cheerleader slinging hip-hop attitude, as she does in the video for the ridiculously overwrought and utterly addictive lead-off single "Too Little Too Late." It also helps that she's matured just enough so that her somewhat sexy persona makes a bit more sense now than it did in 2004, and she easily sells the cheeky and raw dance-funk of such tracks as "This Time" and "The Way You Do Me." However, it's the blissfully melodic ballads and mid-tempo anthems that make the biggest impression here. Cuts such as the gorgeous and dreamy "Like That" and "Anything" with its unexpectedly hip sampling of Toto's "Africa" make for gleefully enjoyable guilty pleasures. Similarly, "Good Ol'" is the best summer anthem ever to see release in the fall, and "'Comin' for You" smartly borrows some of Kelly Clarkson's rock energy. While Jojo may not be taking a career road less-traveled, The High Road does make time for some surprising and memorable pit-stops along the way. [This version includes a bonus DVD of behind the scenes footage from various Jojo music videos.] ~ Matt Collar