JoJo On Her Tringle, Album Collaborators & The Lost Years: Idolator Interview
JoJo’s comeback is the feel-good pop music event of 2015. After spending the best part of a decade stuck in label limbo, the 24-year-old finally extricated herself from Blackground Records last year and promptly signed with Atlantic. She is now making up for lost time by releasing three new singles — or a Tringle! — on August 21. (“When Love Hurts,” “Save My Soul” and “Say Love” are streaming on her website right now).
I had lunch with the “Leave (Get Out)” diva earlier this week and fired off a barrage of questions over white wine and Italian food. As expected, JoJo was an absolute delight and happily chatted about topics as diverse as her long-overdue third album and Lifetime biopics. She also explained how the Tringle is going to work at radio and shed some light on those unreleased albums. Find out everything you need to know about the much-loved pop star’s new beginning below.
Why release three singles at once?
I know, it’s crazy. But I couldn’t just return with one song after all this time.
They’re all so good. I know that Harmony Samuels produced “Say Love” — who is responsible for the other two?
Thank you! “Save My Soul” was produced by The Family. I flew over to Stockholm, Sweden to record it with them. “When Love Hurts” is Benny Blanco and Jason Evigan, who have produced so many big songs. I knew I wanted “When Love Hurts” the second I heard it.
Is the Tringle an EP? How does it actually work?
Not it’s not an EP. I’ve dropped EPs in the past, this is different. I’m going to promote every song. “When Love Hurts” the song that’s going to radio first, because it’s the most upbeat and radio friendly. They are all singles. I just want listeners to be able to support what they love the best.
I can’t believe you made Tringle happen. That word didn’t exist a week ago!
[Laughs] I love it! I’m so thankful, man. I didn’t know if people were going to laugh me off the internet because of the fucking word. It’s a funny word. It’s a stupid word, but I’m glad that it’s catching on. It’s jingly.
Have you finalized the album tracklist yet?
Everything has been recorded, but that’s still being worked out. I’m sure of about eight songs, but there’s room for six more. I want the album to be at least 14 tracks. It’s the least I can do for my fans after all this time. I’m just not sure how I want to shape it up yet.
Can you confirm who you worked with?
I can confirm that the song I wrote with MNEK will be on it. I also worked with Harmony Samuels, Chloe Angelides, The Family, Benny Blanco and Jason Evigan.
MNEK is so underrated.
Not for too much longer. I think he’s going to bubble up.
I believe you also worked with Diane Warren. Did that song make the album?
I don’t know yet. I have the utmost respect and adoration for Diane, and the records that we’ve done together are really great. I hope that it makes the album, but we’ll see.
She’s such a character.
She is absolutely bat shit crazy. She’s endearing. I love that woman. I have a genuine love for her. The first time I met her, I had never heard these things come out of anyone’s mouth, but I love her. I’m such a Diane lover.
The Tringle is really diverse. There’s an uptempo track, a ballad and another that’s somewhere in-between. Is that mix reflective of the album.
It is. I wanted to make a well-rounded album. Something that you could feel all the way through. I’ve talked a few times about wanting to be the soundtrack to people’s life, particularly young women. I’m a young woman, and that’s who I know the best. I want to be that girl for people. I love dance music. I love house. I love hip hop. I love great ballads. I love great songs. My intention was to make great songs.
Do you dabble in all those genres on the album?
Yes, but it doesn’t feel disjointed. I didn’t want it to feel like track, track, track. I definitely want there to be a cohesive feel.
Is it an emotional album? You’ve been through a lot.
It is but it’s not a dark album, or it’s not harping on the past, or negativity, or anything like that. I think the album is infused with my favorite subject, which is love. Love of all different areas — romantic love, sexual love, self love. That’s my favorite thing to sing about. That’s what moves me the most. Love is the illest drug I’ve ever tried.
When is it coming out?
Oh man, I’m focused on releasing this Tringle, and then mixing and finishing the rest of it. It’s not fixed.
What are you expectations for the album?
I’ve already decided that this is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life, and that it’s going to be about a build. I don’t have sales expectations, but I do want it to be received. I do want people to love it. I want them to really enjoy it. I want them to respect it.
Is there an urge to prove doubters wrong?
Maybe a little bit. I’m less motivated by angst, and more motivated by excitement, and light, and preparedness. I feel like I’ve been preparing for this my whole life.
Have you filmed any videos yet?
I shoot the first video this weekend, actually for ‘When Love Hurts.’ I don’t know if I’m supposed to be this specific, but I don’t fucking care. I’m going to tell you. I don’t know when the videos are coming out, because they keep getting pushed back because my schedule has continued to fill up with other things, but I’m excited.
Can you talk about the treatment?
It’s not a narrative like [Rihanna’s] “Bitch Better Have My Money,” but it’s beautiful and it’s powerful and it’s colorful. I am working with some incredible dancers and I want to showcase some voguing — things like that.
That sounds amazing. Will there be videos for the other two songs?
Yes. I’m working with same director for all three of them. I have such a great relationship with him. We’ve been working very closely for the last couple months — sending images back and forth, and trying to do something cohesive, but different with each of them.
JoJo’s Tringle cover:
The visual element seems more important this time around. The first promo pic was so striking.
Yes, it’s much more important. I was a little girl when I came up before. To be honest with you, I never thought about the way that I looked. I never thought about my body. I never thought about anything, until people made me aware of it, which is a negative and a positive thing. I wanted to celebrate the importance of personal style and individualism. I want to separate myself, and be myself. I wanted to do that. I’m really feeling black and white right now. Either an all-white look, or an all-black look.
It’s so stylish.
Yeah, I think it’s chic. It’s what I’m feeling right now, and it’s about staying consistent, separating myself, but about being my personal best. It’s not about being compared to anyone else. This has turned my world upside down too. I’m really excited about this. I feel like myself again. For a long time I didn’t.
I was going to ask you about that. It must be cathartic to finally have new music out.
I was very depressed. There’s no other way to put it. I was frustrated. It was a maddening time, and I’m not the type of person that looks to blame others. I’ll bring it in on myself and ask what could I have done? What could I do? Blah, blah, blah. There was a lot of beating myself up, and it was really painful. But I try to put it in perspective, because there are so many things going on in the world that are so much more important than my personal career going off the track that I thought. Do you know what I’m saying?
When I look at other people’s stories of success and the things they’ve overcome, that’s what kept me going. You know, my family wanted me to not be sad and depressed anymore, so they were like, “Go to college. Do something else.”
You enrolled in college, didn’t you?
I did. I was going to go to Northeastern.
Is it scary to think you could be doing something completely different? You could be professor Levesque.
I think that’s what I would’ve ended up doing, going into teaching. I love people. I love learning. Maybe, but I don’t think I ever would’ve been whole. I think I always would’ve wondered, what if? I couldn’t do that to myself, and I couldn’t do that to the people who have supported me.
And you’re also still so young.
Exactly. I was thinking about my age. It’s amazing, this edge and this experience that I have at 24. I thought about that, and people were constantly reminding me of that. Really, my support system was incredible. My team that I’ve been with for a long time, my friends, my family, my amazing fans.
Can we talk about some of your older songs? Did any older material make it on the album?
Nothing from the period before this has made it. Firstly, legally, I can’t. I don’t have access to those records. Some of the sessions I paid for, but mostly they were covered by that Blackground [Records] contract. You know what I mean? There’s that, but also, I’m personally more interested in moving forward. What I was recording at 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22… it’s different from who I am at 23, 24.
How many unreleased albums did you record?
This is probably the fourth incarnation of this third album.
Yeah. I’ve never stopped recording. It was a little painful when people would tweet me and be like, “Get back in the studio.” It’s like, I’ve never not been in the studio. I’ve constantly been recording.
I think most of your fans know that.
For real. They are so supportive and they want to tell other people. They want to create awareness, bring awareness to the reality. It’s incredible.
Do you have a favorite lost JoJo song?
I love “Limbo.” It’s a record that leaked a few years ago. There are so many. There’s another song called “Who’s Gonna Fight For Me?” I wrote that song with LP, who is a really great artist as well. Let’s see. “Who’s Gonna Fight For Me,” “Limbo,” “Paper Airplanes”… there’s so many, and so many incarnations. “Demonstrate” was a really great record too, I thought.
Is it painful not to be able to officially release them?
Yeah, absolutely. I wish that I could open the vault and put everything on SoundCloud, but again, because I’m respectful to the people I’ve collaborated with, and because people deserve to be compensated for their work, it’s disrespectful to do that.
They need to make a Lifetime movie about your journey.
Maybe one day. That’d be dope!
Who would play you?
I don’t know if we know her yet. She’s probably somewhere in middle school right now. I’m a fan of those Lifetime movies, so I would definitely give it the green light.