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Bottom Line: I’m late to the party, but Jojo’s 2018 re-release of her 2004 debut album is fantastic.

I experience new music in a very deliberate way.

First of all, I need to be in the right mood. I don’t know how to explain it; the moment just has to feel right.

I hit Play at the beginning of the album and let the whole thing play all the way through. This is likely vestigial from growing up in a time when we’d go to an actual store, buy physical CDs, and then pop them in a boom box.

At no point do I look at the titles of the songs. I have a weird thing about songs where the title is repeated over and over in the chorus, so I just prefer to hear the music and let it speak for itself.

I wear headphones. If I’m in the mood to really listen to music, there is no replacement for a good set of over-ear headphones. They don’t have to be expensive or branded – mine were around $40 on Amazon. I don’t quite understand the science, but wireless/bluetooth headphones are not good quality. You’re not hearing the music as it was recorded. If you’re wearing the awful Apple earbuds that came with your phone, that’s yet another barrier to hearing the music as it was recorded. The only way to remove all those barriers is to listen with wired headphones, with the equalizer and any other sound processing turned off.

(If I’m listening to podcasts or riding bike, I’ll use my cheapo $30 bluetooth earpiece(s). I’m not an audiophile or a purist. When you’re on the subway on your way to work, and you just want to listen to something while you browse the news or social media, those $11 Skullcandy earbuds you bought at Walmart are going to work just fine. And I recommend turning your equalizer to “Hip Hop” regardless of what genre you’re listening to. But when you want to EXPERIENCE the music, don’t use anything wireless, and turn the equalizer off.)

I also try not to do anything while I’m listening, but your mileage may vary depending on how busy you are. I am not. In this case, I was meditating, stretching, turning my TV to a YouTube video of a fireplace to set the mood for writing, and washing out the shaker bottle I use to drink meal replacement shakes.

I’d heard an interview of the music artist Jojo on the fantastic podcast Keep It and realized I had no idea she’d re-released her first two albums last year. I absolutely loved “Leave (Get Out)” when I was a teenager, yet another clear sign I was gay in a past life. When I heard that there was some record industry drama that led to these re-recordings, I was intrigued. I’m also just a huge fan of revisiting your own past work – I am constantly rewriting older stories on my blog with updated life perspectives and better jokes.

I hit the Play Sample button on a few of her re-debut album’s songs and was struck by how there was so much more musical substance in the tracks than I’d anticipated. I don’t know what exactly I expected from a pop star’s 2004 debut album, but I guess “not much” if I’m being completely honest. Is that wrong of me? Maybe. Probably.

I’d already instinctively pressed the “$1.29” purchase button on “Leave (Get Out),” and when I reasoned that the $8 or $9 it would take to “Complete My Album” is basically equivalent to a lunch outing, I hit the button and took the leap.

It’s taken me 500 words to get here, as usual, but I was so pleasantly surprised. I listened to the album in a serious, deliberate way, and it definitely delivered in kind. I prefer not to compliment something by putting down its peers, but Jojo just REALLY isn’t some cheap 2000s Britney Aguilera copycat release. I have no idea how well this music was critically received at the time, or how well it sold, or even what the original album mix sounded like, but this music is GOOD.

I feel a strange leap in my stomach when I say this, but it reminds me of Ariana Grande. Which is obviously a dumb statement since her debut album was released in 2013, while Jojo came out in 2004. But hey, it was my feeling upon listening to the album and I’m going to stick to my guns. Ariana tracks like “Break Your Heart Right Back” and “Bloodline” sound like they’d fit right in on Jojo in some alternate universe where this sentence makes any sense whatsoever.

I’m guessing that it’s just another one of those beautiful chicken-and-egg paradoxes of the music industry. Rage Against The Machine was musically influenced by Metallica (among many others), and then a decade later Metallica releases Death Magnetic and critics point to RATM as a musical influence. And both of them were clearly influenced by the much older group Led Zeppelin. Incest would probably be a more apt metaphor than chicken eggs, but that’s criminally gross and I regret this thought immensely.

Uhh, the album’s really great. I don’t have a clever conclusion to put here.

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