Photographs by Sarah Rix.
Many who grew up in the early 2000s will recall Jojo as the singer behind “Leave (Get Out” and “Too Little Too Late”, two major singles that made their way to 128MB MP3 players, high school gyms and R&B charts, secured their spots in listeners’ ears and never really left. Neither did Jojo, who shortly after her chart-topping success became consumed in a near decade-long battle with her old label, but continued to release mixtapes and EPs showcasing her creative and personal growth.
To suggest that her recent release – three singles, dubbed “The Tringle” and the promise of a new album in 2016 – is a comeback would be a false representation of Jojo’s tumultuous experience and persistence. Such a classification does her an injustice when in fact, she continued to maintain a presence in the pop space, and as her sold-out fall tour I Am Jojo indicated, a highly valued one at that.
A near one-hour performance at Toronto’s MOD Club earlier this week was a celebratory introspective into Jojo’s journey. To the satisfaction of all, “Leave (Get Out)” and “Too Little, Too Late” appeared at the top of the evening, performed in their entirety with the same self-affirming attitude and confidence that defined the Billboard hits when they first circulated in the 2000s. Perhaps that’s just Jojo as a whole, though; an epitome of strength, a purveyor of self-love and a stunning voice to share it all (or as one fan casually screamed, “Sing it girl!”)
Those traits manifested themselves in the renditions that came from the mixtape era, including the slinky “Demonstrate” and Jojo’s take on Drake’s “Marvin’s Room”, a cover of Jeremih’s “Planes” and the eventual tringle performances (“When Love Hurts”, “Say Love” and Save Your Soul”). Though the tringle certainly illustrated a unique venture into modern dance-pop and “Save Your Soul” melted the spirits of many into emotional puddles, the more critical takeaway of the evening was that it appeared that the young girl in Baby Phat who won over so many years ago is not quite gone; rather, she has evolved.
A full-fledged, empowered, scarred, joyful and bold woman, Jojo explained that she sought solace in therapy and on stage, methods that she believed helped her to transcend her self-doubts, inner battles and those who controlled her voice in the past. She sang about it in her encore too, entitled “I Am”, a track inspired by therapy exercises transformed into a ballad; it preaches loving yourself first and foremost, in the face of obstacles, flaws, conflict and doubt. It’s this touch of rawness that kept Jojo’s core fan group around; it’s this touch of rawness that will capture new fans, too.
So no, Jojo’s recent return is not a comeback; it is a rebirth.