On an unseasonably warm Nov. 3 evening, the small-scale yet intimate Marlin Room at Webster Hall was the setting for, not a comeback, but a reintroduction of pop/R&B princess JoJo.
NYC’s East Village was the second stop on her nationwide “I Am JoJo” tour, which is slated to hit 23 cities and wrap in late December in New Orleans. Adorned in a mesh jacket, black pants and a cleavage-bearing black crop top, JoJo, who burst on to the scene in 2004 at age 13, made it very clear from the get go that she was no longer the little girl some of us grew up listening to.
“I was really depressed, I was really really sad, your girl was really sad,” the Massachusetts native said about her infamous multi-year dispute with her former label Blackground, which forced her to put her career on pause. However, the now 24-year-old is all grown up and is completely owning her sound with her new label, Atlantic Records.
It was also clear that her fans have not given up on her or her music. The cheers from the crowd often turned into bonafide screams, the type that makes your hearing sound distorted. She spoke multiple times between songs, and each time she spoke, the crowd just got louder.
“Tonight is all about you beautiful motherf**kers!” she gratuitously yelled out to the hundreds of fans in attendance. “The ones who rocked with me from the beginning, thank you. And to the new ones? Welcome to the jungle.”
She opened up with her 2004 hit “Baby It’s You” before taking her fans on a trip down memory lane with songs from her self-titled debut such as “The Happy Song,” “City Lights,” “Breezy,” and her very first single, “Leave (Get Out).” The latter was altered a bit to fit her more mature sound. Her band used heavy rock guitars that kept the crowd on its feet and brought JoJo to her knees under the stage’s cyan lighting.
JoJo also treated fans to hits from her sophomore album, The High Road, which just turned nine years old. This particular album was a bit more personal for the songbird. She explained “new” experiences to the crowd, like her first real love and her first heartbreak, which prompted her to record songs like “Too Little Too Late,” “Like That,” “Good Ol’,” and “The High Road,” all of which were performed.
She closed out her set by performing her Tringle (three singles she released at once in August 2015), “When Love Hurts,” “Save My Soul” and “Say Love.” She also sprinkled some goodies in our bag by performing songs from her mixtapes Can’t Take That Away From Me and Agáp?, including her cover of Drake’s “Marvin’s Room.” She also had a chance to let loose with covers of Jeremih’s “Planes” and Sylvester’s “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real).” She was obliged to do an encore, where she performed “I Am,” a song rumored to be on her upcoming third LP.
One of the things JoJo discussed often during the show was how grateful she was for her fans who have stuck by her despite her uphill battles. Longtime fan Moti Ankari says he connects with the singer on a personal, almost friend-like level.
“We’re the same age, I’m in the same position as her,” he explained. “I feel like we’re in the same mindset.”
If her tour is any indication, it appears that, just like her loyal fanbase, JoJo will be sticking around for quite some time.