The pop and R&B singer brings nostalgia, new material to Columbus.
Here are some facts about pop and R&B singer JoJo: She’s 26 years old, she released a top-ten album, Mad Love, last year and she is in the midst of a concert tour of the U.S. and Europe. On that tour, at least during a stop at Newport Music Hall on Friday, March 31, the crowd was actually familiar with most of her new material.
Those are surprising details given JoJo is best known for achieving success at 13 years old in 2004 with her hit song, “Leave (Get Out),” which she followed up with the number-three single, “Too Little, Too Late,” in 2006. Then, she disappeared from the mainstream for 10 years.
Hardcore fans know JoJo’s legal battle with her previous label, Blackground Records, prevented the singer from releasing full-length projects. The dispute was finally resolved in 2014, and she signed with Atlantic Records. However, during the past decade, she consistently dropped EPs and mixtapes, including the revealing and well-crafted Agape project in 2012.
At the Newport, JoJo satisfied both casual fans nostalgic for music from their childhood and devotees who sang along with songs from Mad Love. Despite some extensive technical difficulties, the singer gave a fun, sensual performance that was also vocally impressive.
It did take a few songs for the crowd to fully warm up, though. Wearing ripped jeans and a glittery blazer, JoJo opened the show with “Clovers,” a song from the deluxe version of Mad Love. “I’m running forward, back to life,” she sang, seemingly referencing both her musical comeback and public struggle with depression. However, despite the strong lyrics, the audience didn’t seem to fully resonate with the song or her next selection, “When Love Hurts,” from her 2015 EP, III.
The energy shifted when JoJo went into “Leave (Get Out)”— a pleasantly unexpected choice given many artists often sing their biggest hits as encores. That song and “Too Little, Too Late,” which she performed later in the show, have held up well over time. Although they’re nursey-rhyme catchy, they were written for a sophisticated singer, which JoJo proved to be even as a teenager. (Many of today’s seasoned pop stars would struggle to navigate the peaks and valleys of the lead vocals.)
Afterwards, JoJo tackled the Mad Love material the attendees knew well; the dance track “Vibe” and soaring ballad “Say Love” were met with an enthusiastic reception. Then, things got freaky.
Like many pop and R&B performers before her, JoJo included the clichéd lap-dance-for-an-audience-member segment. However, the number proved more interesting than expected because the chosen concertgoer was wearing a dinosaur costume and baseball cap. And when the baseball cap came off revealing the person was a woman, the crowd went crazy with delight — artists have historically chosen people of the opposite sex for these segments.
After the dinosaur departed the stage, the technical issues began. JoJo informed the audience that due to computer problems, she would be moving her acoustic set earlier in the show. She impressed with throwbacks, including her song “Baby It’s You” and her rendition of Drake’s moody “Marvins Room” from 2011.
The computer was fixed but sound issues persisted, as telegraphed by JoJo’s frantic motions to the crew. However, the overall quality of the show was not harmed. The audience became more and more energized, dancing along to new songs like “FAB,” and “Fuck Apologies.” By the end of the concert, the crowd was chanting JoJo’s name.
The singer closed the show with the soulful Mad Love title track, showing off her vocal chops and reinforcing how shamefully underrated she is in the industry. But with her newfound freedom from recording purgatory, and judging by the reaction from the Columbus crowd, she may be well on her way to getting the recognition she deserves.