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The High Road

JoJo

℗ 2006 Mercury Records 171 376

JoJo • 2006 • The High Road

Back in 2004, when JoJo was 13 and seemed entirely too much like a character out of the parent-scaring movie Thirteen, nobody, not even her mom, could have guessed she had a disc as good as The High Road in her. What a difference a couple of years and a squadron of slicker-than-thou producers make. Beyond the addictive but not over-the-top radio hit "Too Little Too Late," The High Road is littered with pit stops both elegant (the dreamy-sweet ballad "Exceptional," the angsty, soulful "How to Touch a Girl," and the introspective "Note to God") and shoulder-shimmyingly fun (the sexy-funky R&B tease "This Time," produced by Scott Storch; the hip-hop heater "The Way You Do Me," done up with characteristic magic touches by Swiss Beatz; and the go-girl rock number "Comin' for You," whipped to a perfect-peaked froth by Soulshock). What makes these songs and others — particularly "Let It Rain," with its tick-tick-tick-tick beat — standouts is not raw artistry but careful, willful calibration. JoJo's vocals are full-throated, creamy, and increasingly Beyonce-like, but even when they veer in a Monica-reminiscent direction (check "Good Ol'"), they're given their due with wide-open beats and rhythms that feel less ratcheted-up than right in time. Expect The High Road to log a lot of travelers, none of them weary. There's not a pothole in sight. — Tammy La Gorce.

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