“There Has To Be A Light At The End Of This”: JoJo Tells Us About Her Election Anxiety
JoJo sang the song for change in 2020. Now, she’s making hope soup.
It’s unquestionably a tense time — one in which answering a simple question like “How are you?” seems nearly impossible. What’s abundantly clear is how dire this election is, and how it affects every single person in the country. JoJo is one of them. After a long, difficult road in which she was barred from releasing music, this year marked a turning point for the 29-year-old singer. It was the year that she made her own voice truly heard: First, by releasing her fourth studio album, Good to Know, in May through her own label imprint, Clover Music; second, by releasing the official campaign anthem for former Vice President Joe Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris. The song, an impassioned anthem written by Diane Warren that celebrates individual empowerment in order to create a meaningful movement, is called “The Change.” JoJo knows what it’s like to feel stifled and silenced, and isn’t afraid to speak her mind when she’s passionate, as well as when she’s scared. Here, JoJo shares her post-Election Day feelings with Refinery29.
I am busying myself to avoid checking the news every couple of minutes and staying off social media (but it’s alluring to want to check for the latest updates). Above all, I'm trying to remember to breathe because I can't imagine another four years of this administration. I can't, and yet I am imagining it. I'm thinking about all the different scenarios that could play out. We're bracing ourselves.
I hung out with a couple of friends on Election Day. We sat outside and talked about other things — our favorite places we've been to, our families — and we did talk about the election a bit. A couple of cars drove by with American flags and Trump signs out their windows, and the passengers yelled at us. It really feels like, even in Los Angeles, there are two clear-cut versions of America and what people want to see. I tried to stay in the present with my friends and avoid looking at my phone. We voted, so we’ve already done as much as we can do right now. If we've talked to our friends and family about it and shared and reached as many people as we can, then we've done our part. Now we have to sit back and see what the deal is for the next four years.
I really believe in the Biden/Harris campaign and them as individuals and what they represent for the change in leadership. But even in L.A., you see some people so balls to the wall for Trump, the energy is so in your face, and I can't help but wonder why. What is it about his ideology that is so intoxicating you want to cover your cars in his stickers and wave his flag out the window and yell at people you think are Democrats? It's wild, but I've been optimistic because I know that votes from mail-in ballots still being counted will probably determine the winner. I think a lot of people who did vote for Biden/Harris ended up going that way because they were adhering to the protocol of staying at home. But since Election Day, it’s been a nail biter. I knew it was going to be close, which is why I think watching it for hours is just unhealthy, personally.
Don’t be attached to how things work, be realistic about how things are. For me, it's not an option to stay silent about what I believe in.
I grew up thinking that it's really not the place of musicians to talk about politics, and that it's kind of a distraction. I thought that I wasn't knowledgeable enough about politics to speak on them, and I also didn't think that my vote counted. I’m really disheartened by how the electoral college is set up. We’ve seen people win the popular vote and lose the presidency. It was getting involved in the Black Lives Matter protests earlier this year that made me think about the importance of every individual being there physically, making up the collective. If every individual adopted the pessimistic mindset that I had in the past — “My vote doesn't count, and my presence doesn't count" — then nobody would come out, and things wouldn't change.
Did I think that this would be a part of my trajectory when I was younger? Not necessarily, but times evolve, and you need to step into each moment. Don’t be attached to how things work, be realistic about how things are. For me, it's not an option to stay silent about what I believe in. That's very wack in 2020, in my opinion. There is too much at stake.
On Tuesday night, I saw an old video of Trump saying that he straight up doesn't believe in gay marriage — and this is before he ran for office. I am not comfortable with the leader of America feeling so strongly about that. It's unacceptable. There are so many things about him, in my opinion, that are offensive and unacceptable in a leader, and I can't sit around and hold my tongue.
What's giving me a sense of hope is just knowing that regardless of what happens, it's still going to be the people of America who make a difference in the coming years. It's going to be up to us, regardless of who's in office and which way the House and the Senate shake out. It's up to our generation and the generation after to hold these leaders accountable; to disagree with them; to say, "You're not doing enough," or, "You're doing too much.” I believe in the people.
I don't have that much faith in politics, and certainly not in industry or business or corporations, but I believe in people. Knowing that when we come together, we are very powerful, gives me hope. We need to have more conversations with our friends and family and like-minded people to see what our next moves are. I think this personal responsibility is something that a lot of us have been feeling, about as opposed to just sitting back and hoping that politicians are going to save us or point our country in a direction that we want it to go.
We have to really be involved somehow, and that contribution is going to look different for every person. Another thing that brings me solace is my higher power and knowing that we're covered regardless. America feels like it's so split in two that this is going to be challenging, period. This is an anxiety-inducing time, but I just have to believe that our higher power is going to be with us, and there has to be a light at the end of this.
Cooking has been really therapeutic. I have already made three soups in the last couple of days because soup just feels really comforting, and I just want to be hugged from the inside. That's what soup is: It's a hug from the inside. I made a pumpkin ginger peanut spicy soup, and then I made purple cabbage vegan sausage soup with every vegetable that I had in my fridge. My mom's boss has a persimmon tree, so I also baked persimmon bread with little chocolate chips, golden raisins, and cognac. I'll put that recipe up on JoJo's Sweet Spots, my cooking Instagram. Cooking keeps me in the moment, and it stops me from looking at my phone or doing other things, so it's very meditative. It's nice to be able to comfort yourself with good nutrition and share it with people and give them a hug through your food.