Any therapist will tell you that the journey to loving yourself is a rocky one at the best of times. Luckily, few of us will ever have to act that out in public, much less after a very public battle with our record label, but for artists like JoJo, there can be real power in working out one’s issues in front of an audience. Despite the many frustrations and difficulties it was born out of, Good to Know (★★★☆☆) finds JoJo sounding relaxed, at ease with herself, and eager to share the feeling.
While she has long been billed as a pop and R&B artist, JoJo leans pretty decidedly towards the latter, especially on this album. Her vocals are as strong as they have ever been, and she seems more than aware of it, absolutely milking the lyrics on hazy, sensual tracks like “Gold” and “Small Things.” Tighter production gives it a more polished feel than her previous album, the somewhat disjointed Mad Love. With the possible exceptions of “Think About You” and “Don’t Talk Me Down,” none of the songs are especially catchy, but they’re not trying to be, either. These are not empowerment anthems so much as songs to chill out to and learn to love yourself.
The easy, assured tone of Good to Know nicely complements its self-love vibes. Explaining her thought process in the album’s release, JoJo herself says, “The project can be broken into three chapters. The first being: here’s what I do to numb myself… The middle part finds me realizing that I need to be on my own for the first time in my life to end patterns that aren’t serving me anymore. Toward the end, I knock on the door of self-love. Accepting where I’ve been and meeting myself where I’m at.”
JoJo’s vision of an arc bending towards self-love is a little hard to discern in practice. After all, each one ultimately boils down to finding peace in her own skin, her main preoccupation this time around. Good to Know doesn’t really present a journey towards inner peace so much as its end product. She drives the point home on “Man,” with the line, “I need someone to love me like I love me.”
JoJo admits to a few mistakes and more than a few destructive tendencies, but always in the tone of someone who has recognized them in herself and worked to put them past her. When she sings on “Pedialyte,” “Swear I’m never gonna drink again,” it’s hard not to take her at face value. In the end, she comes out of it looking like someone who may still have a few kinks to work out of her life, but has arrived at a fairly solid sense of self.
There are some moments of real vulnerability and dark introspection, but by the time the closing track, “Don’t Talk Me Down,” concludes Good to Know on a positive, hopeful note, we are left with the feeling that it is mostly in the past tense. It may be a one-note album, but it delivers plenty of good feelings packaged with low synths, slick R&B production and some truly head-turning vocals.
Good to Know is available to stream on Spotify and Apple Music, with “Proud” available only on Soundcloud, YouTube, and the physical album.
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