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Review: JoJo’s ‘good to know’ is what growth sounds like

Vincent | May 4, 2020
JoJo, good to know, album cover

 


In the nearly four years between the release of her third album Mad Love and her latest album, good to know, JoJo hasn’t been sitting idly.

She toured the world in support of Mad Love in 2017, and then hit the road again in 2018 with the Leaks, Covers and Mixtapes Tour, on which she performed fan-favorite songs recorded during the ten years between her 2006 sophomore album The High Road and 2016’s Mad Love. 

At the end of 2018, she surprised fans on her birthday (as per usual) with the re-release of her first two albums. Because of her well publicized label issues, she re-recorded both albums so that they could be made available on digital purchasing and streaming services for fans. This act marked the beginning of her own imprint, Clover Music, and the beginning of her finally taking total and complete creative control of her career.

Throughout 2019, JoJo kept fans at bay with a series of releases such as the GRAMMY Award winning duet with PJ Morton, “Say So,” collaborations with Tank (“Something Else”) and Jacob Collier (“It Don’t Matter”) before releasing her own teaser singles “Joanna” and “Sabotage” in the fall. In February 2020, she even went backstage at Mariah Carey’s Vegas show and sang with her. If that’s not a co-sign, I don’t know what is.

Kicked off with the release of its lead single “Man” in March, it looked like all the stars were aligned for the release of JoJo’s fourth album, good to know, before the world shut down due to COVID-19. Nevertheless, like she’s done her entire career, JoJo persisted. Going live every week day to connect with fans and sing her own songs (and covers, too) a cappella, JoJo proved to be the Queen of Quarantine. While #StayHome orders may have delayed her tour, good to know would not be. And, on May 1st, it was released.

Clocking in at 35 minutes in length, this skip-free album has 9 flawless tracks and an intro and outro that perfectly bookend the story JoJo takes us through on good to know. The story, JoJo says, has three chapters:

The first being: Here’s what I do to numb myself. Get me out of my skin and let me be distracted with love, sex, substances. The middle part finds me realizing that I need to be on my own for the first time in my life to end patterns that aren’t serving me anymore. Toward the end, I knock on the door of self-love. Accepting where I’ve been and meeting myself where I’m at.

This may be the fastest I’ve ever reviewed a new album in such detail, but for JoJo, I had to do it. It’s such an impeccable body of work that I had to take the time to analyze it in-depth in order to give it the review it truly deserves. After all, she’s done so much to make quarantine tolerable, I practically owe my mental health to her so, here I am, returning the favor. I’ve divided the review into the three chapters JoJo outlines, and included a lyric that’s #GoodToQuote and a lesson that’s #GoodToKnow from each song. Enjoy my walkthrough of good to know.

good to know, CHAPTER 1:
Numbing 

Intro: “Bad Habits”

Just over one minute long, “Bad Habit” perfectly sets up the journey JoJo is going to take us on throughout this album. In chapter one, she wrestles with the ways she uses distractions to numb herself. The track opens with a run through of her “Bad Habits,” her vices: “Feed me love, sex, and drugs/ Bring me more, it ain’t enough/ Tell I’m pretty, yeah, I need that.”  The most chilling line of the song, though, is this one: “I know I’d rather be anywhere but here with me.” In many ways, this album is seemingly a journey to change that statement. It’s good to know, and admit, that these things indeed are “bad habits” – hence the title.

#GoodToQuote: “‘Cause the mirror won’t lie to me no more/ And I can’t hide from me no more.”

1. “So Bad”

Recalling the theme and mood of 2010’s “In the Dark,” the album’s first proper song “So Bad” kicks off the set with an acknowledgement of a bad habit. JoJo shamelessly taunts her “late night friend undercover,” teasing all the tea she could spill if she were feeling messy. Instead, she opts for a trench coat and a rendezvous in the “back of the bar, in the shadows.” Musically and lyrically, “So Bad” goes where she didn’t dare on “In the Dark,” both in its bass-line and lyrical lines. “So Bad” is aptly titled. She’s well aware that everything she’s saying is no good, but in the same way the word “bad” can actually mean “good,” this song is “So Bad,” that it’s so good. Ultimately, the lesson learned here is likely that despite how good they may feel, relationships like the ones she described are in fact “So Bad;” toxic even. That’s what’s good to know.

#GoodToQuote: “Does she know you like it in the morning/ Know you come without a warning?”

2. “Pedialyte” / “Take Me”

We’ve all had those nights that yield mornings when we say, “Damn, I’m never gonna drink again,” and end up drinking Pedialyte, Gatorade, or whatever’s your go-to hangover cure. On “Pedialyte,” JoJo is very much self-aware. While she indeed sings, “excuse my behavior, swear I’m never gonna drink again,” she also acknowledges self-destructiveness of the behavior: “We always say, ‘just a few drinks’/You know that I know what that means/ Next thing, it’s five in the morning.” The song expertly demonstrates a vicious cycle of the “I want to, but I shouldn’t” inner dialogue we all experience with whichever vice we might cling to. Those inner contradictions are clear on “Pedialyte.” “But every day’s another celebration, life is the occasion,” she sings, before challenging herself again with another question: “But when I wake up, who’s gonna be my savior?” Similar to “Cold,” which is hidden before Mad Love’s “Honest,” there is a hidden track after “Pedialyte,” titled “Take Me.” It’s a short, 50 second bop that takes us from one vice (alcohol) to another (sex), perfectly setting up the transition into the next song. We all seek distractions sometimes, but it’s good to know where we stand when we’re standing alone.

#GoodToQuote: “Good afternoon, feeling bad still/ I need a prayer and an Advil.”

3. “Gold”

Probably the most gorgeous song on the album, “Gold” is the perfect love-making song. In the same way JoJo describes getting lost in the man she’s singing about, you can get lost in this song. Soulful and sensual, “Gold” is an ode to a perfect connection, physically and spiritually. While she sings it about her love interest, the lyric “Speaking so heavenly/ I call that divinity,” perfectly describes her vocals on this track (and the whole album, really): pure heaven. She truly sounds divine. The way she layers her harmonies to sing “you know” on the chorus is just perfection. As passionate as the song is, though, there is also a bittersweet sense of longing. The lyric, “The way that you love me is lovely/ Love me alone,” is perhaps the most telling. Despite how perfect their connection may seem, that lyrics seems to imply that their connection is slightly imbalanced. It seems that, while he gives it well, he’s not giving as much as he takes; as much as she gives. That realization, in any type of relationship, is certainly good to know.

#GoodToQuote: “You’re bringing it out of me/ From my head to my toes/ I call that anatomy/ That’s the way that shit goes.”

good to know, CHAPTER 2:
Independence

4. “Man”

The lead single from good to know finds JoJo acknowledging her own self-worth. Whereas on “Gold” she was praising her lover’s worth, searching for her own worth from his actions, on “Man” she finds love and worth within herself. On “Man,” she declares that she’ll be single until she can find a man that loves her as much as she loves herself. It’s good to know that you can be comfortable in your own skin, and “Man” is a celebration of that.

#GoodToQuote: “I need somebody who can love me like I love me, love me like I can.”

5. “Small Things”

We all get in our feelings sometimes, and “Small Things” is the perfect acoustic anthem for those moments. As is the entire album, “Small Things” is a raw and honest moment of self-reflection. On this song, JoJo confronts her emotional triggers. Introspective moments like these are what separates a good artist from an irreplaceable one. It’s on “Small Things” that I see the most obvious lyrical similarities between JoJo and our shared fave, Mariah Carey. On a similar and unflinchingly honest song, “Breakdown,” Carey sings, “Friends ask me how I feel and I lie convincingly/ ‘Cause I don’t want to reveal the fact that I am suffering/ So I wear my disguise ’til I go home at night/ Then turn down all the lights and then I breakdown and cry.” This sentiment is echoed in one of JoJo’s finest lyrical moments on the album: “And when my friends ask how I’m doing/ I say I’m great now, but the truth is/ I’m getting good at holding it in, all my emotions, all my feelings/ But the more that I fight them, the bigger they seem/ What really kills me is all the small things.” However, the takeaway here is not to fight them; it’s good to know that it’s actually therapeutic to experience your feelings, so that you can get over them.

#GoodToQuote: “And I know I’ll get over it, ’cause that’s just what I’ll do.”

6. “Lonely Hearts”

From its title, one would imagine a depressing song about the brokenhearted, but that’s not JoJo’s “Lonely Hearts.” On the contrary, the song embraces being single and loving yourself, working on yourself. She recalls the events of Chapter 1 on the chorus, when she says, “I could pick up the phone right now/ And make that 2AM call/ I know just what to say/ But that ain’t what I need right now.” The album is clearly taking us on a journey, and casting aside distractions like casual sex in favor of self-love. This just might be the introvert anthem, with lyrics like: “I’m liking being alone/ Emotions under control/ Right now is only for me/ Just tryna find myself, I don’t need nobody’s help/ Don’t take it personally.” It may sound selfish, but sometimes, we’ve gotta be – that’s the message here, and for anyone else trying to find themselves, it’s one that’s good to know.

#GoodToQuote: “How can I work on me, if I’m working on your body?”

good to know, Chapter 3:
Acceptance

7. “Think About You”

Everyone has ghosts in their past and skeletons in their closets, whether that be a harrowing experience or a heartbreaker ex. On JoJo’s “Think About You,” it’s the latter. My personal favorite song on the album, it’s equal parts catchy and cathartic. It’s everything I love about JoJo: relatable lyrics that’ll drag me and soulful vocals that’ll slay me. Taking responsibility for the relationship’s failure, JoJo accepts both that fact and the fact that she’ll need time to move. Getting over someone isn’t an easy process, and “Think About You” perfectly articulates the struggle of rebounding after having your heartbroken. If you ever have been in the same situation, it’s good to know you’re not alone.

#GoodToQuote: “All my friends keep telling me I just need to fuck someone new/ Whenever I do, I’m gonna think of you.”

8. “Comeback”

There ain’t nothing wrong with feeling yourself a little bit, and letting your freak flag fly. On “Comeback,” Ms. Joanna Noëlle Levesque does all that and more. The digital version features a guest verse from Tory Lanez, upping the song’s heat to the next level. Neither artist is shy on this track, with JoJo unabashedly boasting about her skills in the bedroom while unashamedly demanding what she wants. On a journey to self-love, confidence is key; good to know. Let yourself live vicariously through Ms. Joanna, who says she’s a “Greedy bitch when I want that/ Hit them splits like an acrobat.” Oh? Good to know.

#GoodToQuote: “So fucking good, boy, it’s disgusting/ Tell me it’s mine or I’ma lose my fucking mind/ I need that dick all the time.”

9. “Don’t Talk Me Down”

The last step to healing after a heartbreak, is accepting that it’s truly and irreparably over. On “Don’t Talk Me Down,” JoJo delivers the album’s most gut-wrenching moment in the form of this pristinely poetic ballad. Driven by piano with orchestral flourishes and vocal acrobatics, “Don’t Talk Me Down” finds JoJo standing tall: accepting the truth, and accepting herself. Alone. Being able to stand on your own two feet is a lesson not easily learned, but certainly good to know.

#GoodToQuote: “Tryna fix my self-indulgent ways/ Can’t keep holding on to you ’cause it feels safe/ It’s not okay.”

Outro: “Proud”

Also only available on the physical edition of the album, “Proud” begins with a few motivational words from JoJo’s mom, Diana. Dedicated to her mother, ”Proud” is a truly touching moment and the perfect way to conclude the album. While it’s directed toward her mom, it also seems like she’s talking to herself. Accepting her mistakes, loving her scars and forgiving herself, “Proud” finds JoJo allowing herself to feel proud – of herself. Most of us wrestle with the pressure to make our parents’ proud, but it’s an even more arduous journey to be able to feel proud of ourselves. Singing her mother’s words, “you don’t know how special you are,” and thus accepting it, cures her of the attitude she started the album with. Now, she is okay with being in the present, with herself. Comfortably. It may be hard to find pride within yourself, but once you know, you know. And, let this album serve as evidence: it sure is good to know.

#GoodToQuote: “People either love you or they won’t/ It doesn’t really matter if they don’t.”

GRADE:
97/97

Stream good to know by JoJo:

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