The High Road is the second studio album by American recording artist JoJo, released in the United States on October 17, 2006 by Da Family Entertainment and Blackground Records. Recording sessions for the album took place during late 2005 to mid-2006 in California, New York City, and Miami. Lyrical themes involve relationships, young love, break-ups, forgiveness, self acceptance, and faith. It features an eclectic array of styles with pop, alternative rock, and hip hop soul. Released as the follow-up to her platinum debut album, JoJo, the album was expected to be another major hit for the artist.
The album spawned three singles. The first of these, "Too Little Too Late", was released on August 15, 2006. Not only was the song positively received by critics, but it was also a commercial success, becoming her biggest hit to date. In the United States, the song climbed to number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it her highest charting single on the chart. It also became another hit on US radio for JoJo, reaching number 2 on the Pop 100. In the United Kingdom, the song became her third Top 10 hit, peaking at number 4 on the UK Singles Chart. The song also became her third Top 10 hit in New Zealand, peaking at number 5. The single also became her second to reach the Top 10 in Australia, peaking at number 10. This marks the first time JoJo has appeared in the Top 10 of the Australian Singles Chart since her debut single, "Leave (Get Out)". The second single, "How to Touch a Girl", was released on November 14, 2006 in the United States. The single was not released worldwide, as it was a commercial failure in the United States, failing to chart on the Billboard Hot 100. It did, however, peak at number 76 on the Pop 100. "Anything" was released as the album's third and final single on May 7, 2007. Due to lack of promotion, the single became a commercial failure, becoming her second consecutive single to miss out on the Billboard Hot 100. It did, however, become her fourth Top 40 hit in the United Kingdom, peaking at number 21. The song also reached the Top 20 of Ireland, peaking at number 18.
The High Road also enjoyed some success of its own, when it debuted at number 3 on the Billboard 200, one spot higher than her debut album. The album sold 108,000 copies in its first week, 13,000 more than her debut album. The High Road also became her first album to chart in the Top 20 of the Canadian Albums Chart, peaking at number 12. In the United Kingdom, the album debuted at number 24, two spots lower than her previous effort. To date, the album has sold 3 million copies worldwide.
After the success of her debut album, JoJo quickly went back in the studio to work on new tracks. While recording, she worked with producers such as Josh Alexander, Beau Dozier, Ryan Leslie, J. R. Rotem, Matthew Gerrard, Soulshock & Karlin, Stargate, Billy Steinberg, Peter Stengaard, Scott Storch, Swizz Beatz, Justin Trugman and Bernard "Focus..." Edwards, Jr.. It was reported that over 30 songs were written and recorded for the album, before being narrowed down to the twelve that made the final track listing. During an interview, JoJo compared The High Road to her previous album by stating, "I recorded my first album when I was 12, and now I’m 15. From age 12 to age 15 is a big jump in a young girl’s life. I think with the new album, you can hear the maturity and confidence in my vocals. I’m coming into myself and being more comfortable. All of the songs on the album came out well - the music style is mostly urban like the my first album, but there are some rock elements too."
When asked about the recording process, JoJo stated, "I had finished promoting my first album, then I went to Australia to film Aquamarine," she recalled. "It was a busy time – while I was in Australia, I auditioned via satellite for RV. When I finished with Aquamarine, I came home and started working on the new album. It was mainly recorded in New York, Miami and L.A. We recorded over 30 songs with a lot of different people. [...] I feel that doing 30 songs was fine for the album. Some people would say that’s too many to do, and it’s costly to record that many songs. But Chris Brown recorded 50 songs for his album, and then he whittled it down and made a great record. When you record a lot of songs, you come up with different styles and ideas." On the album, JoJo got to work with Diane Warren, whom she had idolised. She recalled the process by saying, "I was very excited to get together with Diane Warren," she said. "I love Diane – she’s one of my favorite people. We recorded four or five songs together, two of which made the album, ‘Exceptional’ and ‘Note to God.’ She’s so cool."
"Anything" contains a sample of Toto's 1982 song "Africa written by drummer Jeff Porcaro & keyboardist David Paich. Due to the heavy interpolation of the song, Parcaro & Paich received co-writing credits.
The High Road contains a mixture of songs, ranging from R&B to pop. During an interview, JoJo stated, "I definitely felt more confident recording this album because I know how to go into the studio and how to work with producers. When you go into the studio you have to have a relationship with the producer while recording. Also, this time I knew how to warm up my vocals and what to expect." When asked about how the type of music she wanted on the album, she stated, "Well my executive Producer is Vincent Herbert and I’ve known him since I was twelve, actually since I was eleven, and he is very good at picking songs he thinks I’d like. He does like to throw curveballs sometimes and try different things. But most of the time we have the same taste."
The first song on the album is "This Time". The uptempo hip hop track has been called a personal favorite of JoJo's, with her performing it multiple times live. Lyrically, the song speaks of not letting someone she likes "get away" like she did with the last one. The Way You Do Me is the second song on the album, and was released as a promotional single for the album on September 20, 2006. Like the previous track, the song is very influenced by hip hop and R&B tracks. "Too Little Too Late" is the third song on the album, as well as the lead single. The song has become one of JoJo's biggest hits to date, reaching the Top 10 in the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom, among others. Lyrically, the song speaks of how JoJo cannot forgive her ex for what he has done to her. "The High Road", the album's title track, is the fourth song on the album. It is the first to contain spiritual references and is about seeking alternatives to revenge with lyrics like "Still I have faith/Somehow I believe/That if I keep love in my heart/It will find it's way to me". The triple meter, mid-tempo song was influenced by old school jazz, soul music and gospel music. "Anything" is the fifth song on the album, as well as the third and final single. The uptempo track is heavily influenced by urban hip hop and R&B tracks, and lyrically speaks of JoJo falling in love with someone. "Like That", the sixth song on the album, is an R&B influenced mid-tempo track. The song features a piano throughout the song as well, and has been compared to releases by Ciara, among others.
The seventh track on the album, "Good Ol", is a mid-tempo hip hop track that sees JoJo singing about being free and having fun. "Coming For You" is a light rock song in the same vein as "Leave (Get Out)". It is her third song, including "Good Ol' and the aforementioned "Leave", to be produced by Soulshock & Karlin. The song has been called a female-anthem, as JoJo is heard singing about not letting go of someone, and she is going to get them, and win their heart. The ninth song on the album is "Let It Rain". The mid-tempo R&B song was initially meant to be released as the third single from the album, however, its release was eventually canceled. It was released as a promotional single on September 20, along with two other songs from the album. "Exceptional" is the tenth song on the album, and is more slow paced than the rest of the album. The song is designed to show off JoJo's vocals on the track. "How to Touch a Girl" is the 11th song on the album, as well as the album's second single. JoJo has called the song her favorite on the album. Lyrically, the song speaks of how to treat a woman, and how to touch her heart, according to JoJo. The final song, "Note to God" is the most religious on the album. The song was covered and released in 2010 by pop singer Charice, as her debut US single. The song had minor success on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 44.
The High Road spawned several official and promotional singles. The album's lead single was "Too Little Too Late", and was released on August 15, 2006. The single became an instant hit for JoJo. "Too Little Too Late" broke the record for the biggest jump into the top three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, moving from number 66 to number three in one week; this record was previously held by Mariah Carey with her 2001 single "Loverboy", which went from number 60 to number two. However, the record was ultimately broken on the issue dated February 7, 2009 by Kelly Clarkson's "My Life Would Suck Without You", which jumped from number 97 to number one. In the United Kingdom, the single entered the UK Singles Chart at number 22 based on downloads alone two weeks before its physical CD release. This is because from 2007, the United Kingdom changed charting rules and downloaded singles can enter the UK Singles Chart at any time. When the song was released to physical CD, it went up the chart to number four, its peak position. This made it JoJo's second top five and third top ten single in the United Kingdom. The song also reached number one on the UK iTunes Top 100 Songs on January 10. With "Too Little Too Late" having spent six weeks in the top ten, and 11 weeks in the top 40, it has been named her most successful single in the United Kingdom, although "Leave (Get Out)" peaked at number two. The song also managed to stay in the top 75 until late April.
On September 20, 2006, three promotional singles were released to iTunes to help promote the release of the album. "This Time", "The Way You Do Me", and "Let It Rain". The songs have all been performed live at several venues. The second official single, "How to Touch a Girl", was released on November 14, 2006. The song was well received by critics. Chuck Taylor of Billboard said that "'How to Touch a Girl' again casts the youngster with a crafty melody, albeit strikingly similar in structure to the previous hit. Despite the bizarre, almost perverse title, this track could propel the burgeoning talent all the way." In a review of The High Road, Bill Lamb called the song "a near perfect piece of teen pop." Despite the strong critical reception, the song failed to have any chart success. In the United States, the single failed to chart on the Billboard Hot 100, and only reached number 76 on the Pop 100. Due to its failure in the United States, the single was not released anywhere else. Initially, "Let It Rain" was meant to be the album's third single, however, due to lack of fan approval, the single was scrapped. "Anything" was then released as the album's third and final single on May 7, 2007. The single was the second official single from The High Road in European countries and was released in the United Kingdom on May 7, 2007; it began gaining airplay there on March 24, 2007, eventually debuting on BBC Radio 1's playlist under the B-list section. JoJo was in the United Kingdom during the first two weeks of May to promote the single; she performed at London's G-A-Y on May 12, and appeared on GMTV on May 8 as part of a series of radio and television interviews. "Anything" remained in the top 40 of the UK Singles Chart for three weeks.
On September 20, 2006, fans were able to buy from the iTunes Store snippets of three of JoJo's songs from the album, including "The Way You Do Me", "Let It Rain" and "This Time". The three promotional singles were released to raise hype for the album, after the success of the lead single. On September 27, JoJo performed "Too Little Too Late" and "This Time" on MTV's TRL. On September 28, AOL released Sessions@AOL, an exclusive performance from JoJo. During the performance, she performed the singles "Too Little Too Late" and "How to Touch a Girl", as well as two of JoJo's personal favorites, "This Time" and "The Way You Do Me", which had both been released as promotional singles before the album's release.
The album has received generally positive reviews from music critics. Alex Macpherson of The Guardian gave the album a positive 4/5 stars stated that, "Hotshot R&B producers have been roped in: Swizz Beatz' fiery The Way You Do Me, which continues in the vein of his sterling work on the more red-blooded moments of Beyoncé's latest album, is a particular highlight, with JoJo herself proving surprisingly adept at frenzied, sexually possessed hollering. At heart, though, she's an earnest sort of girl, most evident on the supremely melodramatic Note to God, a Diane Warren-penned state-of-the-nation ballad that starts off with JoJo emoting over a solo Wurlitzer and inevitably ends up caught in a storm of crashing chorales. JoJo is, however, at her best when compulsively dissecting emotional situations straight out of high-school movies via the medium of big, heartfelt choruses: the country-tinged Good Ol' is gently, dreamily optimistic, and the wonderfully weepy pinnacle comes with the bleak resignation of Too Little Too Late." Matt Collar of Allmusic gave the album a positive 4/5 stars stated that, "These are well-written, catchy pop songs with a healthy dose of hip-hop rhythm that serve as solid launching pads for Jojo's superb vocal abilities. It also helps that she's matured just enough so that her somewhat sexy persona makes a bit more sense now than it did in 2004, and she easily sells the cheeky and raw dance-funk of such tracks as "This Time" and "The Way You Do Me." However, it's the blissfully melodic ballads and mid-tempo anthems that make the biggest impression here. Cuts such as the gorgeous and dreamy "Like That" and "Anything," with its unexpectedly hip sampling of Toto's "Africa," make for gleefully enjoyable guilty pleasures. Similarly, "Good Ol'" is the best summer anthem ever to see release in the fall, and "'Comin' for You" smartly borrows some of Kelly Clarkson's rock energy. While Jojo may not be taking a career road less traveled, The High Road does make time for some surprising and memorable pit stops along the way."
Kelefa Sanneh of The New York Times gave the album a mixed review stating that, "Nothing else on The High Road, JoJo's second CD, is as great as that song, which reached No. 3 on the pop chart. JoJo is a teen-pop star with an R&B singer's voice: that means she can outsing much of the competition, but it also means more ballads (the album's second half is infested with them) and more not-quite-credible lovesick lyrics. Still, she knows exactly what to do with a good beat. In The Way You Do Me, she sounds as hyped-up as Swizz Beatz's track. And in Anything, she sings a lovely little song over a sample of the 1982 Toto hit Africa. That's classic rock, if you're a singer of a certain age."
The High Road was expected to be a huge hit for the artist, after the success of her previous album, as well as the album's lead single. In the United States, the album debuted at number three on the Billboard 200, selling 108,000 copies in its first week. The album debuted behind Diddy's Press Play and Evanescence's The Open Door. Nearly a month after its release in the United States, on November 28, 2006, the album was certified Gold by the RIAA, for selling 500,000 copies in the country. The album debuted at number 12 on the Canadian Albums Chart, becoming her first album to enter the Top 20 in that country. In its second week, sales dropped nearly 70%, and saw the album falling out of the Top 40. Despite this, the album was certified gold by the Canadian Recording Industry Association on January 17, 2007 for selling in excess of 50,000 copies.
In the United Kingdom, The High Road reached a peak position of number 24 on the UK Albums Chart, two spots lower than that of her debut album. Despite the lower chart position, the album did have sales success, receiving a gold certification by the British Phonographic Industry on June 8, 2007 for shipping over 100,000 copies. In Australia, the album failed to chart on the official albums chart; however, it did have some success on the Australian Urban Albums Chart, where it peaked at number 22. In Japan, the album missed out on the Top 40, becoming her first album to do so. It debuted and peaked at number 45 on the Japanese Albums Chart, and quickly fell off the chart. The album's poor performance in the country could be attributed to the fact that none of the singles managed to make an impact on music charts in the country. In Europe, the album debuted at number 92 on the official albums chart, and fell off the next week. The album had a similar outcome in Belgium and Switzerland, peaking at number 94 and 96 respectively.