On the surface, JoJo’s new single “Fuck Apologies.” may seem like yet another sassy, angsty break-up song but if you listen a little more closely and consider her history, you may venture to guess, as I have, that there is more to this song for JoJo, than just dissing an ex-lover. And rightfully so.
If you don’t know the backstory, a 13 year old JoJo made her debut in 2004 with the single, “Leave (Get Out).” She was signed, coincidentally, to the same label that signed a 14 year old Aaliyah: Blackground Records. Thanks to her extreme vocal talent that sounded well beyond her years, and a catchy single, she became an instant hit. Two years later, she released her sophomore album, The High Road, showing marked improvements vocally and in the quality of her music. She sounded more mature, even though she was just barely 16. She scored another big hit in “Too Little, Too Late,” but unfortunately, it’s been a long road since The High Road, released nearly 10 years ago.
To be honest, I don’t even know all of the details; I doubt anyone does, but essentially JoJo was trapped in a no-good record deal that offered her little promotional benefits and did not allow her the creative freedom she desired. She did not want to do teen-pop. She wanted to do music with R&B, soul, hip-hop and house influences. She was locked in her deal and could not release the music she wanted, and refused to release an album she was not proud of. So, she did a series of mixtapes and one-off singles until she was finally freed from Blackground and signed to a new label. The battle was a long and messy one, and as a result you can’t even find JoJo’s first two albums on streaming music services, stores, or even her music videos on VEVO. It’s a shame.
It has been ten years since we officially heard from JoJo and she released a true lead single to radio stations. In many ways, this next album, Mad Love is like her adult debut album. It’s like her Control – Janet Jackson too broke free from a patriarch and the creative restraints of her teenage years after two teenage albums (self-titled and Dreamstreet) before breaking through with Control. However, what’s different here is that JoJo released mixtapes preceding it. So, any true fan of JoJo’s knows what she is capable of and how she desires to be more musically comparable to Beyoncé or Mariah Carey as far as vocals, talent, content, and urban-edge than, say, Katy Perry or Ariana Grande. We just need the rest of the world to recognize. She does not, it seems, want to be family-friendly. She does not want to be a pop confection. She is an unapologetically talented songwriter, vocalist and artist who wants to be respected as such. She is 25 years old, her new single is called “Fuck Apologies” and she is not going to give you one for saying “fuck” in the song or in its title.
With “Fuck Apologies,” it’s quite clear that JoJo doesn’t care what people think of her; because everything she’s done since 2006, musically, she’s done because she “really meant it.” She won’t apologize for being the artist she wants to be. She sings, “I would have said sorry a long time ago… if I really meant it,” which to me reads that, if she wanted to sell-out and listen to the creative directions of her record labels, then she would have done that a long ass time ago and not waited ten years to return with an official album. “I’m not perfect, I got pride,” she sings – pride as an artist who is proud and sensitive about her craft. “What you want from me?,” she asks, almost taunting anyone who will question or criticize this song, quickly followed by an “I’m not sorry.” Hell, Wiz opens the track by saying, “I ain’t apologizing for shit, I do what I want, and JoJo does too” as a warning! Sure, Wiz just had a huge pop hit in “See You Again,” but, in general, he’s not the most wholesome choice of guest-star; he’s not going to get her a hit at Pop radio. Nor is it an in-genuine move to be “down” (see: Taylor’s “Bad Blood”), because JoJo already has the respect of the hip-hop community (check her cover of Drake’s “Marvin Room” that went viral, among others). This is a situation as akin to a 25 year old Mariah Carey doing a collaboration with Ol’ Dirty Bastard of Wutang Clan (“Fantasy”) in 1995 as we are going to get from any artist in 2016 (okay, I reached a little bit – Wiz is no ODB, but you see my point, right?).
Not only does the song undoubtedly connect to JoJo’s career experiences, but the fantastic music video adds yet another level to the meaning of the track. In it, she is twirling around embracing her newfound freedom. She rejoices in being carefree; it is a visual representation of no-fucks-given; no apologies made. Not only that, but she boldly includes a gender-bending character applying lipstick to his seemingly “masculine” exterior, a Black woman embracing her nude body, on a rooftop, another young woman looking in the mirror, chopping off her hair, and another pair of young people enjoying life (to be honest, I’m not sure what they’re doing?). Finally, there’s a scene with JoJo in an intense make-out sesh, giving no fucks if you’re watching. And, of course, Wiz appears enjoying his favorite activity (and I don’t mean the rapping). Overall, the video is visually striking and adds yet another powerful dimension to the new track.
“Fuck Apologies.” is infectious and bold, and it SHOULD be a hit. I hope that it gets people talking, and that JoJo finally gets the comeback she deserves and has been striving toward for so long. Too often, label politics get in the way of the success of some of our most talented artists. Please, name me a vocalist out there, in her age group, with vocal skill comparable to JoJo’s. There are very few, if any. Add in her talent as a songwriter and artist, and the list gets even shorter. While her career may have began 12 years ago, she is still very much in new artist territory – but that’s alright, because she is still young. She’s only 25, and could very well have a long, successful career ahead of her. I hope the radio and her label act right to make that happen. If not, well, at least she did what she wanted – and will continue to. If y’all don’t make her a superstar, then it’s your own damn fault – and fuck your apologies. I’m glad I won’t ever have to apologize for not recognizing her talent and potential. Whether it’s an indie mixtape or a major-label-backed album, I’ve always had my love for JoJo. And always will. If you haven’t, then, luckily for you this is the perfect time to get with the program. #FuckApologies.
Her re-debut, third album, Mad Love will be released October 14, 2016 (almost exactly ten years after The High Road).