JoJo is pretty damn creepy. She’s 12 years old (well, not really, but close enough—it’s a small detail her record label seems to be downplaying) and she can sing a cappella live on the spot like a seasoned diva. But while the girl’s certainly got pipes, her eponymous debut is as contrived and calculated as the strategic tears in the t-shirt and cap she sports on the album’s cover. Even the songs JoJo penned herself can’t give the disc the personality it so desperately needs; “Keep On Keepin’ On” is a “personal,” inspirational tune, but it’s high-end sneakers and a duplex that JoJo wants, a sad reminder of how success is measured by today’s young people—as dictated by hip-hop trends and MTV’s Cribs. Then again, it’s not surprising coming from a girl who got her start on Bill Cosby’s Kids Say the Darndest Things. It’s not the catchy lead single “Leave (Get Out),” produced by Soulshock and Karlin, or even a cover of SWV’s early-90s hit “Weak” that keeps JoJo afloat, but—despite lyrics like “I’m on a high/Feel like I’m on medication”—the old-school “City Lights” and the minimalist “The Happy Song,” which let JoJo’s vocals take center stage. As long as she surrounds herself with smarter people (and stops rhyming words like “breezy” with “heezy,” as she does on the album’s opening track), the young up-and-comer could very well be the next Teena Marie. But probably not.
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