The High Road
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The High Road
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MP3 Music, October 17, 2006
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JoJo is a very talented singer and from the several previews to her stand out single, she has done another great job with this record. JoJo (aka Joanna Levesque) releases her second major label CD titled The High Road. Armed with a top lineup of writers and producers, namely Swizz Beatz, Scott Storch, Diane Warren, Sean Garrett, Bo Dozier, Billy Steinberg, Josh Alexander, Ryan Leslie, and SoulShock and Karlin. The song ''Exceptional'', written by Diane Warren, struck a personal chord with JoJo: ''I've had low moments where I just didn't feel good enough... we all do,'' she says. ''This song definitely makes you feel better about yourself.'' Warren also penned ''Note to God''. And again, it was the tears that did it. When Warren first played it for JoJo and her mom on the piano, mom broke down on the spot. JoJo was so moved she recorded the song that night in under an hour. What listeners hear on the album is the raw and unedited end result. She picks up the pace with straight-out party jams like ''This Time'', produced by Scott Storch, and ''The Way You Do Me'' by Swiss Beats. With JoJo's complex vocalizations over highly-infectious beats, these songs are impossible to listen to sitting down. On the hard-hitting track, ''Anything'' (Bo Dozier), JoJo puts a funky new spin on a familiar 80's megahit Toto's Africa. Perhaps the record she's most proud of is ''How to Touch a Girl,'' which she co-wrote with Steinberg. JoJo admits the lyrics were influenced by real-life romantic events.''I was confused about a boy,she says, so I wrote this to tell him how to touch a girl's heart.'' The record's simple and sumptuous sonics are reminiscent of soul and jazz classics from back in the day. Not surprising, considering JoJo's greatest influences are artists like Aretha Franklin, George Benson, Etta James and Stevie Wonder.
Back in 2004, when JoJo was 13 and seemed entirely too much like a character out of the parent-scaring movie Thirteen, nobody, not even her mom, could have guessed she had a disc as good as The High Road in her. What a difference a couple of years and a squadron of slicker-than-thou producers make. Beyond the addictive but not over-the-top radio hit "Too Little Too Late," The High Road is littered with pit stops both elegant (the dreamy-sweet ballad "Exceptional," the angsty, soulful "How to Touch a Girl," and the introspective "Note to God") and shoulder-shimmyingly fun (the sexy-funky R&B tease "This Time," produced by Scott Storch; the hip-hop heater "The Way You Do Me," done up with characteristic magic touches by Swiss Beatz; and the go-girl rock number "Comin' for You," whipped to a perfect-peaked froth by Soulshock). What makes these songs and others--particularly "Let It Rain," with its tick-tick-tick-tick beat--standouts is not raw artistry but careful, willful calibration. JoJo's vocals are full-throated, creamy, and increasingly Beyonce-like, but even when they veer in a Monica-reminiscent direction (check "Good Ol'"), they're given their due with wide-open beats and rhythms that feel less ratcheted-up than right in time. Expect The High Road to log a lot of travelers, none of them weary. There's not a pothole in sight. --Tammy La Gorce
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2. The Way You Do Me -> B+
3. Too Little, Too Late -> B-
4. The High Road -> B
5. Anything -> This one is my former favorite. It's now behind "Exceptional", "Note To God" and "Get It Poppin'". A
6. Like That -> B
7. Good Ol' -> B-
8. Coming For You -> B
9. Let It Rain -> B-
10. Exceptional -> This one is touching. Yes, many will say "Note To God" is better, but I don't think so. A
11. How To Touch A Girl -> A-
12. Note To God -> Penned by Diane Warren, it can be chilling if you let it. B+
Get It Poppin' -> Definitely should have been on all the albums as a bonus track behind Note To God. A-
I Can Take You There -> B
Do Whatcha Gotta Do -> B+
Final Score -> B+
How To Touch A Girl
Note To God
This Time isn't a great opener. Sure it's good, but not opener good. The Way You Do Me is a prime example of lyrics that don't sound right coming out of a girl so young. That aside, it's one of the best songs featured. A great beat seems to push JoJo to sound even better. Too Little Too Late is another standout. It's slower where JoJo sounds particularly mature. Lyrics aren't too bad either. The title track, The High Road, has another excellent beat with lyrics that are preachy yet work for the song. The end of the song has a climax that doesn't disappoint. After The High Road the rest of the CD can kind of run together. However, if you pay attention it keeps its integrity really well. Anything and Like That (another uncomfortable moment) both are of the slower variety where the vocals are more at the forefront to show that she can actually sing without loud beats acompanying. Good Ol' is a midtempo song with some pretty bad lyrics overall. Let It Rain follows a bit in the vein of Too Little Too Late with the quick singy/talky verses. A good song though. Note To God is a nice parting song with only a piano and JoJo. If you like her voice you'll love this song.
My favorite songs are The Way You Do Me, Too Little Too Late, The High Road, Let It Rain, and Note To God. If JoJo matured this much from the last record than on the next one I'm sure she'll put her naysayers to rest. I'm not saying I'm a bonified fan, but I can recognize a good CD when I hear it, and for those of you who are looking for a pop/hip hop/maybe dance record, look no further. The High Road isn't for everyone so if you have any doubts about buying it, definitely preview it first. Other than that, it's pretty good. I'm impressed.
Some outstanding tracks:
-Comin For You
-The Way you do me (Swizz beats produced this hot track)
-Let It Rain
-This Time (another nice dance track)
and many more