It was the end of a difficult decade for JoJo, now 25, whose career struggles were also complicated by a tense relationship with her momager, Diana. "I’m an only child and my mom comes from a bit of a tough background, so we’ve always been really close," explains the Foxborough, MA, native. "But for a while it was like an unhealthy closeness because we came up so poor and suddenly embarked on this crazy journey together — and she was both my mom and my manager."
It took separating — both in business and in her personal life — for the pair to eventually make their relationship work. "Now, we're closer than ever," JoJo says. But finally getting her freedom and signing a new record deal with Atlantic Records didn't mean making a new album was easy. The artist had been creating music for years, but for legal reasons, JoJo couldn't use any of her previously recorded music on her new project.
"I was like, ‘Yo, I’ve already said so much that people will never be able to hear! Am I supposed to just, like, say it again?’" she says. "But thankfully, life continues on and is always giving you inspiration if you keep your eyes open."
Unfortunately for JoJo, life went in a unexpected direction when her father passed away at age 60. Father and daughter had just recently begun to repair their relationship, which had long been strained because of his substance abuse issues. Her ode to him, "Music," is the first song on the new album — and the last one she recorded.
"My father is the only loss I’ve ever dealt with," she says. "Even though he had his demons and I had mine — everybody does — we could always laugh about music, we could sing, we could harmonize...music was always consistent." The resulting song is a stirring piano ballad with JoJo crooning through tears: "Went on the road to make my daddy proud / But I lost him and so I sang to the crowd / My only hope is that he's looking down, thinkin' / Oh my God, my daughter's doin' it now."
Though the rest of Mad Love is a mix of slow and uptempo tunes, JoJo manages to channel the same soulful passion from "Music" into the rest of the project, which was mostly written while she took a week of silence at a house in Malibu, CA, in January. The final product is, of course, a bit more grown-up than her teenage efforts, a fact that I'm sure the nearly 800,000 Twitter followers who have been supporting her for years will be happy to hear.
"It’s more mature, but not in a like, married-lady type way," says JoJo. "I’m still young and single and stupid. But I’m also smart and savvy and I can be a host of contradictions because, at 25, that’s who I am. So I think it’s sexy and honest and imperfect and that's okay. I’m comfortable with being all of that.”