We’ve been following JoJo’s post-”Leave” comeback for a minute now, and every time we come away more and more impressed. “Marvin’s Room” was a revelation, but we were admittedly more skeptical than we should have been at the time. Plenty of has-beens and never-weres have gone viral with covers without ever achieving a commensurate level of real-world success, our reasoning went, ignoring JoJo’s technical proficiency, the vulnerability she breathed into each verse. We changed our tune for good with “Demonstrate,” a amazingly trippy bit of electro-R&B that took over lead-single duties on JoJo’s unnamed third album from the more conventional “Disaster.” All worries of fluke-dom were set aside.
“Demonstrate” so reinvigorated JoJo’s creative juices that she scrapped the rest of the album to follow in its path—in the interim, she’s releasing a mix tape, Agape, next month. The tape’s first single, “We Get By” dropped today, and from the first listen it’s clear that JoJo’s second act is developing quite nicely.
JoJo has called her recent output “genre-less music,” and while we wouldn’t necessarily go that far, it’s an instructional description of the stew of influences simmering around on “We Get By.” The song’s hook and driving piano riff seem like a deliberate homage to Spoon’s “The Way We Get By,” while the track’s clutter-clatter beat would be at home at any modern R&B blog-jam. Vocally, JoJo stays grounded: The roller-coaster melisma of “Demonstrate” has been replaced by an quiet confidence that’s no less strong for its understatement: “These Colonial bricks and beams are just not enough to hold me / All I got are these hopes and dreams and this Cranberry Stoli.” She’s still on the grind, spending interminable hours on public transit and dealing with “Hollywood bullshit,” but as her spoken-word segment at the end makes clear, all the hurdles won’t bring her down: “I just feel like, whatever comes my way, I can deal with it.”