Jojo is in a unique position. She exploded onto the scene in the early 2000s at just 13 years old. With a big soulful voice and talent far beyond her years, a seven-year label battle unfairly stunted her growth. After a string of mixtapes, Jojo has followed up her 2016 Mad Love album with good to know – a soft and layered hangover album that fully fleshes out Jojo’s artistry and place in today’s pop and R&B spheres. She fully comes into her own by way of the more self-assured tone and mature themes that dominate the record.
At just nine tracks with a running time of exactly half an hour, good to know is a brief but exploratory collection of songs. “So Bad” immediately sets the scene with a balanced mixture of minimalist slow-burning verses and a hook that’s drenched in the electro-alternative R&B of The Weeknd. The explicit sexual lyrics are definitely a shift from the more sly and tender songwriting of her past work, but Jojo sultrily delivers the lines in a way that’s reminiscent of prime Janet Jackson. In fact, Janet Jackson’s influence is all over good to know in the way that album marinates itself in Jojo’s sensuality and sexuality. The heat continues to rise with one of the album’s instant standouts, “Pedialyte,” a song that cements the album’s quest to be the quintessential hangover album. Pedialyte is a popular drink to prevent hangovers, and on this song of the same name, Jojo laments over the shame, guilt, and confusion that accompanied her night out and subsequent hangover. The song’s hook uses a classic bar song melodic structure (think Rihanna’s “Cheers” or Snakehips’ “All My Friends”) that gives a euphoric boost to the melancholic lyrics. The true greatness of the track lies in its outro, a sensual chant that sounds straight out of an interlude on Janet Jackson’s The Velvet Rope or All for You.
“Gold” and “Man,” the album’s Kiana Ledé-esque lead single, continues the album’s hot streak of simple and sexy production with lush harmonies. “Small Things,” unfortunately, is a bit of a drag; the sleepy melody recalls Ed Sheeran in all the bad ways, but her pristine vocal performance prevents the song from being a complete dud. Her vocal stacks on the bridge are also particularly pretty. “Lonely Hearts” gets the album back on track with an electro/acoustic R&B blend similar to that of the record’s opening track. Lyrically, “lonely hearts don’t break” is a clunky sentiment, but again, Jojo’s vocals, specifically the run that anchors the hook, drive the song home. Much of good to know saw Jojo fitting into the “wavy” R&B of the current era without downsizing her otherworldly voice. On the album’s show-stopping closer, “Don’t Talk Me Down,” Jojo belts over a lounge piano and string ensemble with a delicate rasp that adds the perfect amount of edge to the song. The dramatic melody sounds straight out of a soundtrack, but it all comes together nicely. The one downside of such a short album is that there was a lack of a proper build to such a gargantuan climax. The song is an excellent, but abrupt, finale to the album.
Jojo likely won’t get a hit from this record unless “Man” starts to gain some traction, and that’s okay. On good to know, she has fully blossomed into both a seasoned vocalist and a grown woman with genuine stories to share and the confidence to do so.
Key Tracks: “So Bad”; “Pedialyte”; “Comeback”; “Don’t Talk Me Down”