I remember JoJo in middle school. She was kind of a big deal to me and my friends because she was the first recording artist that we could relate to in age and she was quite popular. I looked up to her, and honestly felt a little jealous at the same time. I wanted to be her so badly. Then Jojo faded. At least in my life anyway.
Cut to 2016: she reappears! I was on Instagram one day and I saw a video captioned “Do you remember JoJo?” “Ohh shit? Fuck yeah. JoJo!” I took a dive into the JoJo-verse. Where she’d been. What’s she’d been doing. That’s when I saw she was back with a new record. And that’s when my mad love affair began with Mad Love.
I was in a relationship at the time I started listening to it. And I mean RELIGIOUSLY listening to it…on the way to my job, on my break, on the way to the gym, at the gym, in the shower… I listened to it all day every day for a very long time.
My relationship came to an end and the album quickly became my comfort record. Naturally, I still have some memories appear in my thoughts from that period when I listen to certain points of the record. That’s not where the memories stop though, not by a long shot.
A few months later a new relationship began. I was still listening to the album fairly often. In the shower, at the gym, and I added “Like This” and “Edibles” to my “sexy time” playlist, which ushered in a whole new thread of memories for me. At that point, that record had been there with me through a hard low and an amazing high. Sometimes break-up records never get to see the light of day once the period of mourning ends because it rehashes bad times over and over. But I dragged Mad Love out of the mud with me.
I moved from Yorktown, Virginia to Washington DC for a Production Management position with a summer performing arts festival in March of 2017. I was still belting lyrics from this record in the shower of my family friend’s home in Falls Church, Virginia. When I hear “Reckless” I can vividly remember the way that house smelled and the way the carpet felt under feet.
I discovered that JoJo’s tour was coming to DC, and Stanaj was on the ticket. Ironically, I had already created a playlist titled “Stanojo,” a combination of the both of them. So I took my mom to see them at the 9:30 Club. Holy shit…it was amazing! I sang and danced to every song, and I was completely mesmerized by them both. I was even fortunate to snag a picture with Stanaj as we were leaving the venue. Then we went to my favorite Mexican restaurant in the city to get nachos and tequila. It was beautiful night.
The festival ended and my girlfriend and I moved to Nashville, Tennessee in the fall of 2017, and guess who was going to headline Pride Festival in Nashville that June? JoJo…duh. I was going to see her perform those songs again! June came, and I made some new friends who were also going to see her at Pride. One of them being my friend, Chelsea, and her girlfriend. The four of us met right before the set started and squeezed our way to the center of the crowd. It was so fucking hot and sweaty, but so damn worth it. The set started and I was in such a happy place. I was holding my girlfriend tight, listening to music that meant so much to me already, standing next to a friend I really cared about, in a new city, around people just like me. I can remember that magical moment every time I hear “Vibe.”
After the show we met with some of my other friends that were there, Caleb, his boyfriend at the time, Devon and Tanner. We went out for drinks at a bar that was two blocks away from our apartment. We played ping-pong and laughed until our stomaches hurt. Then my girlfriend and I walked home drunkenly while holding hands. When I hear “Clover” I can feel the June night air on my skin from that night.
Here we are now. It’s February 2020. I quit my job. I’ve been through another break-up. I moved away from my friends and I live in Germany. I’m listening to Mad Love still, and I guarantee it will etch new smells, feelings and memories in my head from moments happening right now.
That’s what music does. It preserves a snapshot in time in amber for a lifetime, whether good or bad. It is so much more than a group of instruments slathered under lyrics. It’s a very special feeling that will crawl into your brain and heart and lay dormant until you press play.