Today is December 21, and that’s significant for two reasons: 1) if you’re reading this, it means the world has apparently not ended, and 2.) you’re therefore free to keep listening to JoJo‘s eclectic mixtape Agápē, which she released as a free download yesterday (December 20), on her birthday.
Recently we spoke to the always upbeat, definitely all grown up 22-year-old, as she was driving through the California desert. Naturally, she was very eager to discuss what she calls her “labor of love,” the 13-track Agápē.
“Agápē means unconditional love without pretense, regardless of circumstance,” JoJo says, when asked how the Greek word applies to this new set of material from her. “I just really felt very much that’s what I wanted to embody with this. The recording process and assembling it, and just getting it all in perspective, was very much a process of love and of me growing, feeling very centered, taking care of myself and expressing myself.”
Over the past eight years, JoJo has released only two albums, the last of which, The High Road, arrived in 2006. Her record label struggles are storied — something that has only served to embolden the loyalty of her followers. And yet, despite her problems on the business side of the music industry, she has always found ways to get her songs into the hands of her devotees since the release of The High Road.
“It’s really just me giving something to my fans,” she says of Agápē, now her second mixtape in two years. It’s a combination of new tunes (including an amazing acoustic homage to Joni Mitchell‘s “Free Man In Paris”), ambient noises and, at one comical point, what sounds like some drunken karaoke. “I just want to share. That’s what this is about to me. Agápē is a word that’s been floating around in my head for awhile. I remember meeting a girl, this incredible concert violinist — she was like 11 years old and her name was Agápē. I’ll never forget her. So [that incident] inspired this.”
In discussing one of the mixtape’s standout tracks, JoJo says “Andre” isn’t necessarily a direct tribute to Outkast‘s Andre 3000. Rather, the 37-year-old rapper/singer provided a bit of inspiration for the song.
“I absolutely admire Andre and both of the guys from Outkast — their incredible artistry and creativity,” she explains. “The man that Andre is, I think that’s super-sexy — someone who is themselves, who isn’t confined and just expresses themselves. He has such a great style. I was inspired by that, for sure.”
In case it wasn’t already crystal clear, JoJo hasn’t let record industry setbacks stifle her productivity. More than anything, Agápē is about the 22-year-old being in the position to be able to offer up a full set of new material whenever and however she chooses.
“My goal was just really to create a consistent atmosphere where people could take a moment and lose themselves in the music,” JoJo notes. “It’s really just inviting you into my world, if you want to check it out. I totally took the freedom that I have in my current situation and let out everything that I was thinking. I was able to get some things off my chest. It’s not a heavy album — it’s really just me at 21, almost 22, going through life and keeping it all the way real as much as I can.”