Soundtrack Of My Life: JoJo

Grammy-nominated R&B icon and child pop prodigy

The first song I remember hearing

Cliff Edwards – ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’

“I loved all the Disney movies growing up as a kid. I had them all on VHS and I would rewind them and listen to the songs and try to learn them and impersonate the voices of the singers who were singing them. Everything from a more classical sound, like ‘I Just Can’t Wait To Be King’ from The Lion King, all the way to impersonating Ursula in The Little Mermaid, I just loved them all. And it probably all started with this one from Pinocchio.”

The first song I fell in love with

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Bob Seger – ‘Old Time Rock And Roll’

“I was a very eccentric, marching to the beat of my own drum type of kid growing up. While my peers were listening to the music that was popular at the time, I, being an only child, really gravitated toward the music that the adults in my life were listening to. Me and my dad would often take car rides together whenever he wanted to clear his head, maybe from arguing with my mom, and we would listen to music and harmonise. That’s probably where I was introduced to this song. I loved the grit in Bob Seger’s voice; I tried to emulate it. I felt like my soul was soothed by the music just like it says in the lyrics, but it’s such a precocious and weird song for a child to love.”

The first album I bought

George Benson – ‘The Best Of’

“I bought this when I was about eight. At that time, I was hustling in the sense where I would walk into a nail or hair salon with my aunt and I’d be like, ‘I can sing. Do you want to hear me sing?’ They would say, yeah, and I’d be like, ‘How much are you gonna give me?’ So I would save up money that way. I love George Benson. He was my first introduction to scat and then I worked backwards and became more familiar with Ella Fitzgerald and the greats that really brought that style to the forefront.”

The first gig I went to

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Kiss 108 Concert – Tweeter Center, Mansfield, MA, 1999

“I went to a few small shows growing up but this was my first big official concert. I was nine and I got the tickets after calling into a competition on the radio; it was the first time I had ever won anything. They were amazing tickets, we were right up front. I got all dressed up. I was inspired by Steven Tyler and how he wore colourful ties in his hair; so I had that, my little tube top, my baggy jeans. The line-up was everybody you wanted to see at that time: Britney Spears, 98 Degrees, *NSYNC and loads more. I sang my way through a few security guards backstage and ended up singing to Britney’s. He was like, ‘You’ve gotta meet Britney, she would love you.’ Then we met. She was absolutely lovely, southern and sweet. I was so excited. She was living the dream I wanted to live. It really crystallised everything for me.”

The song that reminds me of home

James Taylor – ‘Copperline’

“Most James Taylor songs remind me of home. It could be ‘Sweet Baby James’ or a number of others, but there’s something very comforting about his guitar playing style and his storytelling on ‘Copperline’ that reminds me of New England. And as long as I’ve lived in Southern California, New England still has my heart. That’s my roots.”

The song I wish I had written

Alicia Keys – ‘If I Ain’t Got You’

“This is such a perfect, soulful song that defies genre. How can you listen to it and not completely understand and be moved by it? I just think it’s really perfect in its simplicity yet its poeticness and its honesty. I’m really into the idea of a modern classic and Alicia Keys has a few songs that I think are really perfect.”

The song I do at karaoke

TLC – ‘Creep’

“‘Creep’ is such a great slinky, sexy, fun record that I can do at karaoke with friends. I can just picture myself having several drinks and then being like, ‘Fine, I’ll get up and do karaoke,’ in North Hollywood or something. I don’t remember when I first realised that it was about cheating, but cheating has been a part of my life because I got cheated on in my first relationship, and from there it was like this ping pong effect of who’s cheating first type of thing. I think ‘Creep’ was when I really started to identify with that, even at the age of like 16.”

The song that makes me want to dance

Davido – ‘Fall’

“This puts me in vacation mode. It’s also one of the first songs where I was really starting to loosen up and open my heart up to my partner. He loves music just as much as I do. People always want to pass him the aux because he will always put on some great music, and he knows how to read people and what it is they want to hear. He played this when we were at a mutual friend’s house once and we were dancing around the pool table; so it’ll always take me back to that moment.”

The song I can’t get out of my head

Dua Lipa – ‘Don’t Start Now’

“This record is so good! Those melodies are great and I love that she’s on this new tempo disco wave. It’s really changing the sound of pop radio and it’s bringing tempo back to the airwaves. Wherever I go it’s always playing – shops, airports, clubs – so I think that’s why it’s haunting my brain, but thankfully it’s not a song that I dislike.”

The song I can no longer listen to

R. Kelly – ‘Ignition (Remix)’

“I used to be a really big R. Kelly fan. Now I just refuse to listen to his music for very obvious reasons. I still think he is one of the best songwriters of our time and some people make a case for separating art and human, but that’s something I’m not going to do in this particular case. It becomes easy to disconnect from that because I’m such a lyric person. When I think about the fact that he was writing these lyrics and then living this life, I as a grown woman am so uncomfortable with the reality of his inspiration for those songs. And I’m just like, you know what? I never need to hear that again.”

The song I want played at my funeral

Frederic Weatherly – ‘Danny Boy’ (Bagpipe version)

“I grew up in the choir loft of our local Catholic Church, where I would sing songs with my mom who was a soloist there. Whenever a dignitary or a military man was buried they would have bagpipes playing and I thought it was so cool; the guys in the kilts would come out. I’ve always told myself I would have an over-the-top, men-in-kilts vibe at my funeral. I think that would be amazing.”

JoJo’s new EP ‘Trying Not To Think About It’ is out now

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