Warner Music Inc.
Release Date: October 1st 2021
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- World Of Sunshine *intro*
- Anxiety (Burlinda’s Theme)
- Good Enough *interlude*
- Feel Alright
- Fresh New Sheets
- Sugar & Carbs *interlude*
- Spiral SZN
- Nikki’s Sound Bath *interlude*
- Worst (I Assume)
It’s one of the first few days of November 2021… and we’ve all been put under a lot of stress and hardship and adversity over the past little while (or long while). COVID-19 has brought out the best and the worst in all of us, and has brought us closer together than ever before… and also more isolated and further away from everyone than ever before. COVID-19 has somewhat enriched our social relationships, but have also made us more inward looking and introverted. And so, as we navigate a world that is fundamentally different than what we envisioned it to be even two years ago; how do we live day to day, without any worries and with the assurances and peace that we had before? Mental health is a big thing and a very important issue that I don’t think has been discussed as often as needed; and the topic of how we as humans take care of our own mental health, is something that needs to be addressed especially in the age of COVID-19. In times of trouble and adversity, normally I’d look to music and more specifically God (through music) to inspire us and comfort and provide hope and a light. And especially now when here in Australia we are coming out of lockdown, I’d say that music is extremely important. But what music shall we listen to? We’ve reviewed plenty of albums from all sorts of genres (like CCM, pop, country, rock); so, when I immediately found out about JoJo’s latest album trying not to think about it, which released at the beginning of this month; I decided to take the plunge and listen to this R&B project. I mean, what would be the harm? The worst that could happen would be that I am indifferent to this… So why not stretch my musical boundaries beyond what I’m used to? And after listening to this album for a few days straight, let me just reiterate that trying not to think about it is an album that needs to be heard. It’s not the most popular album nor the flashiest. But it is important and much needed in society today, where lyrical topics of depression, loneliness, anxiety, mental health, and the like, are often swept underneath the rug.
I’ve just been trying to deal day by day. To be honest with you, one of the things that I did—I judged myself a little bit for this…but I got back on antidepressants. I wanted to believe that I could clean up my diet, and get out in the sun, and write in my journal, and meditate and do yoga and just be okay. But I needed a little lift. I needed a little help. And I’m not ashamed that I did that. It was an important turning point for me. I find that the more that I share what I’m actually going through, the more connected I feel. We can bond over a shared experience and then think, ‘wow, even though we might not have been through the same experience, it left us feeling the same way.’
I wanted to make something that reflected how I was feeling at that time, and that might help some other people feel less alone. I was really struggling to do things that I knew would help me feel better—like going out in the sun and exercising, eating a plant-based diet, or engaging with people. I was so confused, and that’s where the thought of writing through it came from. I realized that I was trying to push through and not think about the things that were eating me up, thinking about my concerns for my family, my fears, the state of the world, my personal accountability. All these things,” JoJo says, “I try not to think about them. But I realized that was probably making it worse. So then, through writing, not only for the albums but journaling and starting to talk to my therapist again. That’s where all these songs came from.
If I can be totally honest, I reckon that JoJo is quite an underrated artist. JoJo isn’t as popular as someone like Taylor Swift or Ed Sheeran or BTS or Coldplay or Harry Styles. She’s someone who, like Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Tim McGraw, Jennifer Lopez, Justin Timberlake, Sofia Carson, Sabrina Carpenter and Hailee Steinfeld, has tried her hand at both acting and singing- although these days she is indeed more of a singer than an actor. Back in the day, JoJo starred in films like Aquamarine and RV (her filmography isn’t that gigantic!), but since 2004, JoJo has been recording music on a consistent basis. She’s an artist that I hadn’t paid much attention to before; but this particular album that has released this year, has made me rethink JoJo’s discography- perhaps I will revisit her many albums. trying not to think about it reminds us that we are not alone and that we’re all in this journey called life together. And so, if an album inspires us to look inward and to change parts of ourselves that we don’t like, and to actively focus on our relationships and our friendships, can that album ever be bad?
Album opener “World Of Sunshine”, technically an ‘intro’, opens proceedings, and is a slower-tempo R&B melody, and quite fitting to be the first song. As JoJo eloquently and fervently proclaims about how she is always immersed in her ‘world of sunshine’ where it’s always ‘rainbows and butterflies’; it is unknown whether she is being sarcastic or genuine. As in, this song could be from the perspective of someone who has well and truly conquered depression and everything else associated with mental health, or it could be sung from the perspective of someone still struggling but admitting to putting up a mask and a front for everyone else to see. Either way, this melody speaks volumes, and reminds us that people need help sometimes. The world indeed isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, and we all need to grasp and understand the enormity and magnitude of mental health and how we as humans deal with such issues. This melody from JoJo is the perfect way to introduce the issue of reflective and introspective issues like self-worth and identity- and from the way the album has started… we can tell that it’s going to be very ‘heavy’. But like I mentioned earlier, it’s a project that is very much needed these days.
“Anxiety (Burlinda’s Theme)” is next, and is an emotional, hard-hitting, pulsating melody about breaking up with your worst self and your anxiety, of which JoJo has given a name: Somewhere over the years I became someone who wore all my fears and anxieties and hang ups and negative self-beliefs like armor. This song is about wanting to break up with your anxiety- talking to it like it’s an abusive relationship. CUZ IT IS. It can keep you small, isolated, unhappy, afraid, unable to perform to the best of your ability and reach your potential. If you’re reading this and you relate: I GET YOU. Someone once told me that naming your depressed/ anxious self and keeping it separate from who you really are can be helpful. So I named mine Burlinda. Sorry to any Burlindas reading this 🤪. I haven’t conquered my anxiety… but slowly but surely… I’m learning how to work with Burlinda… and let her know she is not needed and can take a seat. This song is extremely confronting and perhaps triggering to some; however JoJo passionately delivers this track with great professionalism, and earnestly reminds us that we do not have to listen to the negative voices in our head anymore. “Dissolve”, a powerful, poignant melody about wanting to be alone and disappear in the midst of a break-up, reveals the all-too-real and familiar feelings of awkwardness and shame and hurt when we feel like someone we have trusted has betrayed us; while JoJo once again tugs on out emotions and our feelings with the short but impactful “Good Enough”, where JoJo questions whether she is good enough, and reminds us that Sometimes it feels like my self- esteem exists on a sliding scale. One day feeling confident, capable, resilient and another day feeling broken, unworthy, and small. These limiting beliefs are so painful and are accumulated over time… rearing their head sometimes perhaps to try to protect us from getting emotionally bruised by putting ourselves out there. and that’s part of the catch 22.
“B.I.D”, a slower tempo R&B jam, is one of the most emotional and honest songs on the album, as JoJo speaks about ‘bringing it down’ and being that shoulder for someone else to cry on, being that one friend you can rely on in times of trouble and suffering; while JoJo dives deep and vividly details the extreme lengths we go to make ourselves feel alright, in “Feel Alright”, regardless if it is destructive to ourselves or to others. “Feel Alright” exposes about how we all crave human attention and connection, no matter if it is healthy for us at the time or not; and so this song with plenty of rhetoric questions, is sure to provide many topics of discussion around the dinner table. “Fresh New Sheets”, quite possibly the most vulnerable melody on the album, tackles the topic of vulnerability, honesty and wearing your heart on your sleeve; and as JoJo eloquently relays in this gospel infused melody that we all are afraid of being open and vulnerable even if we put ourselves out there anyway, we are reminded by the fact that we’re all human and the person next to us probably feels all of the same insecurities and has the same issues as us anyway.
The short but powerful interlude “Sugar & Carbs”, speaks about every one of us avoiding our feelings and our issues, via the process of binge eating and consuming things that aren’t good for us physically and spiritually; while JoJo once again tackles the theme of feeling overwhelmed and out of control with the reflective and contemplative “Spiral SZN”, as she reveals to us that seasons of change and calamity don’t last forever, and you’re allowed to feel a bit lost every once in a while. The instrumental somewhat orchestral “Nikki’s Sound Bath” breaks up the project a bit, and reminds us that even music without words can touch our spirit and speak to our soul; while lead single “Worst (I Assume)” highlights the fact that JoJo always assumes the worst in any relationship or friendship, and that I wrote it from the protective mechanism that sometimes I have, of bracing for the worst in a relationship — whether it’s romantic, or professional, even though that might not be what ends up happening. trying not to think about it then ends with the quasi-spiritual prayer like melody “Lift”. A song whereby JoJo earnest and fervently cries out for a ‘lift’, and longing to have people around her who will build her up and make her feel worthy, valued, beautiful and special, “Lift” reminds us all that we cannot do life on our own, and that life is so much better and worthwhile, with friends, family and God by our side.
I didn’t grow up having habits or routines instilled in me. As an adult trying to form these habits, it’s cool because we get to decide what type of rituals we want to have, and what’s important to us, and what our values are. Those things [habits] set us up for success and for stability. Sure, we’d like spontaneity, but it makes us feel comforted and secure to have things that we know we’re going to do every day. All those little things that you don’t think matter as much, I do think they really contribute.
I don’t think there’s any way to prepare for what fame and access do to you. I don’t think I’ve fully unpacked it, to be honest with you. It [fame at an early age] gives you a false sense of your self-worth. You believe that your self-worth is directly related to what you produce and how that performs. I don’t think that’s healthy, particularly to be instilled in a 13-year-old. And it’s taken time to realize that I am more than that and that my value is actually in who I am intrinsically.
I have a much better life-work balance than I ever have. I’m making time for things that enrich my life outside of just pursuing my career. I’m realizing that life is about relationships, and pouring into those interactions and being of help to other people. I like to see potential—that just feels better
With much of JoJo’s trying not to think about it being slower-tempo reflective melodies (I don’t think there’s a single upbeat pop tune or rock tune on here!), this project may not be for everyone, but lyrically and thematically, I reckon this is the most important project of the year. There is no solution for any of the issues that JoJo tackles. No mention of God or a saviour or the promise or assurance of help coming our way. But in some ways, this moving and powerful album that is immensely vulnerable, still moves, inspires, and comforts. It lets us know that we are not alone and lets us know that we do need to open up and be vulnerable, if we want to allow people to help us. JoJo isn’t a household name. But this album puts her name at the forefront should we all choose to take notice; and that’s all JoJo can do. trying not to think about it isn’t flashy, but it doesn’t need to be. For far too long, we’ve always had albums that speak about the bright side of life; but this project speaks about reality. So what are you waiting for? If you’re in a tight spot, or even if you’re not, JoJo’s new project will encourage and hopefully will bring you closer with friends and family. isn’t that enough reason to check out trying not to think about it?
3 songs to listen to: Feel Alright, Fresh New Sheets, Lift
RIYL: Tori Kelly, Demi Lovato, Little Mix, SZA, Justin Timberlake, Justin Bieber, Sam Smith