Kid talent show discovery JoJo's self-titled Blackground Records, Da Family-affiliated debut is a slick set of modern R&B in the vein of Brandy or Monica, with plenty of room to introduce its star's bigger-than-you'd-think presence. A bank of producers -- Vincent Herbert, Soulshock, Bink -- provide backgrounds that bump decidedly in the midrange -- there's a conscious effort to keep the focus on JoJo, and not whatever beats are currently making the grade. In other words, her vocals never sound detached from the goings-on behind her, or just a voice chattering over R&B generica. And this is promising, as the young singer really does have a tremendous voice. "Breezy" and "Homeboy" multi-track her trills, sulky whispers, and brassy wails over clicky percussion and a mixture of loops and instrumental snippets. Throughout there's talk of sheezies, throwbacks in the mix, cell phones, and the boy next door jilting poor JoJo. But even if the lyrics throughout are pretty interchangeable, vocally there's no doubt in her ability to carry the album, and the lack of irritating skits or attention-hogging guest shots is pretty refreshing. The funky jook of the Reggie and Ronald Burrell production "City Lights" features a few random "JoJo do that thing" drop-ins, but the girl gets right to the bottom of that freaky Beyoncé id, and aligns the cut with fellow standout "Not That Kinda Girl." Lead single "Leave (Get Out)" doesn't have a lot of staying power, but its guitar figure is a nice touch, and the chorus hits with the right amount of tell-off brashness. There's also a serviceable update of the 1992 SWV hit "Weak," the stripped-down strut of "Yes or No" (is that real beat boxing?), and the requisite ballad in "Never Say Goodbye." All in all, JoJo is a strong debut. Its centerpiece is never smothered with collabo pile-ons, and she's served well by the mix of arrangements and backgrounds. She's definitely courting middle-lane accessibility, but she rightly lets her singing do the talking, and that's a signal of where she's headed.
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus