Mixtape review: JoJo - Can't take that away from me

Mixtape review: JoJo - Can't take that away from me | Random J Pop

After having her career be royally cop blocked, and recording that All I want is everything album (which I strongly believe will never see the light of day, even in lieu of this), JoJo decided to release a mixtape as a means to give fans something. As well as remind the world that the 13 year old girl who stormed the Billboard charts back in 2003 with "Leave (Get out)" was still alive.

I've always been sceptical of mixtapes, and have avoided them like puddles in the street. They often end up being over-long, raggedly mixed pieces of rubbish, with some DJ shouting between tracks and some God awful album cover featuring clip art and a graffiti font. But I like JoJo, so decided I'd check her mixtape offering out. And I can proudly say she raised the bar for mixtapes. Almost to the point where she shouldn't have put Can't take this away from me out as a mixtape at all.

Despite JoJo claiming this mixtape is experimental and that it should not be taken as a reflection of how her next full studio album will sound, it pretty much is what you'd expect from JoJo at this point in her career. Granted, lead buzz single "In the dark" is probably more seductive and hard hitting than we'd expect from JoJo. But then again, after The high road's "Like that" and "This time", it's inevitable that JoJo would drop a song like it at some point. Nothing on this album feels like it's too much of a stretch for JoJo, or even a risk. This album is very indicative of where JoJo should be musically, and is a natural evolution of her sound which her fans will appreciate.

From the offset you're hit with a song which is just 'so JoJo'. The album title track is a song some may be familiar with, as it leaked a good while ago. The song is nothing special, but it acts as a nice reminder of what you loved about JoJo in the first place. Even if it exerts nothing new in the way of her sound or what you can expect from the rest of the songs on the mixtape.

If there is a song (one of a few) on this mixtape which really should have been given to radio, then it's "Running on empty". It should not have been thrown on some mixtape full stop. But instead, vaulted for a future single. It's fun, it's loud, it's bouncy - it's f**king crack. I love it! My favourite song on Can't take that away from me by far.

"Pretty please" is the song that Beyoncé probably tried to steal and say she wrote and co-produced, as it sounds like an off-shoot from "Get me bodied" in the same way "Single ladies (Put a ring on it)" was. But JoJo owns the song in such a fashion, that the Beyoncé comparisons are momentary. It shocks me to the core that Chad Hugo and Kenna put this song together, because it's so mainstream and conformed in comparison to what they've done before. Jim Beanz is also on-board as a co-writer and of course: vocal arranger and producer. He gives JoJo some serious arrangements for the song, and she breezes through them like nothing. Brandy best watch her back.

"Why didn't you call" is the successor to JoJo's string of no good n***a anthems. First "Leave (Get out)", then "Too little, too late", then the unreleased "Keep forgetting (to forget about you)" and now "Why didn't you call". The music pulsates with its digital blips and a sound effect I can only describe as a police siren's battery dying, and JoJo blows through the song with her angst head on. "Why didn't you call" is a jam. Plain and simple. It's also a great showcase of JoJo's songwriting ability, as this a song she's credited for writing the song on her lonesome. I believe her. I wouldn't believe Beyoncé if I saw this shit in her liner notes, but I believe JoJo.

"Just a dream" is a beauty. JoJo, a acoustic guitar and sweet lyrics make for a shining moment on the album amongst much of the over production littered throughout. There's a rawness about JoJo's vocals which really add to this song. Her levels change, and you can hear her getting too close to the mic and then moving too far away on occasions. No vocal trickery's or fancy effects what-so-ever, and all it does it make the song even better.

As with "Running on empty", "When does it all go away" really should have been sidelined to have featured on her full on third studio album and tagged as a single. We're talking potential worldwide smash here. Think Jordin Sparks' "No air", only 10 times better and wife beater free. Fellow hustling artist Travis Garland from the defunct NLT sounds great. And his vocal blend nicely with JoJo's.

JoJo takes it straight to the clubs for three songs straight, but only one of them is worthy of being spun in a club. "My time is money" sounds like some left over Sean Garrett and Swizz Beatz piece of garbage from B'Day. And "What you like" is a poor man's rip off of Justin Timberlake Prince impersonation. Rubbish. Now, "In the dark" however is Can't take that away from me's definitive club banger. To stick it at track 9 on the album was criminal, as it really should have been track 1. I was not prepared for JoJo to drop this hotness on me for a damn mixtape out of the blue. The song channels Madgina's "Justify my love", but lays the club vibes on as thick as jam and makes her shit sound like a ringtone in comparison. JoJo's joint features minimal beats, 808's, twinkling pianos and haunting pads; which all intertwine to dump truck the sexy. If this drops in a club, there will be bumping and grinding. There a reliance on the dreaded auto-tune on this song, but it adds to the vibe so nicely that I can't hate on it. Plus, we all know JoJo can sing half these hoes in the game right now under a tram. So it's not like she's hiding anything, by using it.

The mixtape closes with two reminders that JoJo can do soul with the best of 'em. "Boy without a heart" and "All I want is everything" channel the likes of D'Angelo and Jill Scott respectively. Both songs are too damn swoony and soulful for a 19 year old white girl. She comes correct on both tracks - which bookend the album nicely.

JoJo can sang. This was clear from her debut. But it's always nice when you have an artist who can clearly sing from the offset, release music which shows vocal growth. JoJo's self titled debut was plagued by over singing. The high road saw JoJo tone it right down and focus on the subtlety of her vocals. Can't take that away from me see's JoJo inject a great deal more feeling and sass into her vocals, giving the songs a great deal more believability. JoJo's always had it. Even at the age of 13 when she was singing about telling a cheating n***a to get out of her house, you semi believed her. But everything about how JoJo sings now feels so much more natural and seasoned. It's great to hear a collection of songs from a girl who can actually sing, amongst so many releases from chicks who can barely hold the flattest of notes.

Can't take that away from me isn't perfect. It lacks the start to finish sheen and polish that The high road had. And there are a good bunch of unreleased JoJo songs which are better than what made the cut for this release. But it is a solid effort, and goes above and beyond what you'd expect an artist to release as a mixtape. And also goes a considerable way to clarifying that JoJo is relevant.

I'll just end with review by saying that JoJo gave away an album so good she really should have charged for it.

Album highlights:
■ Can't take that away from me
■ Running on empty ★ J's fave
■ Pretty please
■ Why didn't you call
■ Just a dream
■ When does it go away
■ In the dark
■ All I want is everything


  1. All I Want is Everything is a golden song... that's the JoJo I want. I wish she'd go thorugh a jazz phase, on that Mayumi Kaneyuki tip. Along with Wait A Minute and some other sultry bangers, she'd be on fire.

    I'd cop that disc.

  2. have you heard the alternate version of "Just a Dream"? I love this verison better. I hope that this is on her new album.



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