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JOJO: The High Road

By Amanda Ly, 16, Mark Keppel HS (Alhambra)

I can’t stop listening to R&B singer JoJo’s second album, The High Road. JoJo differs from many R&B artists and teen pop stars because her songs are serious. They deal with everyday situations, like breakups and lost faith.

The positive songs make the album more meaningful; they show that not all girls are lovestruck and carefree. It reminds me that life can be complicated and filled with various emotions.

The first song, “This Time,” about a failed relationship, has an upbeat rhythm I can’t get out of my head. I like this song because it reflects my most recent relationship. She sings, “Has my mistake caused me to miss this first chance at real love?”

JoJo has a highly developed voice for a 17-year-old. Her voice is rich and soulful. The songs “Exceptional” and “Note to God” are accompanied by soft music where her voice stands out. In “Exceptional” she sings, “You’re beautiful but you don’t know/ Can’t see what’s there inside your soul.” The lyrics were true—people are not only beautiful but unique.

“Note to God” was my favorite because the lyrics are inspirational. I pray for the same things—ending war, finding our way, God giving us strength, eliminating hate and promoting love. Listening to it leaves me with a sense of empowerment; it only takes one individual to make a difference.

This gospel-like album is realistic. I find faith important and her songs give me a boost when I’m down.


By Devin Ruiz, 16, Ramona Convent (Alhambra)

Jason Schwartzman defies the stereotype that all actor/musicans put out terrible CDs.

From the moment I saw Schwartzman’s film Rushmore, I fell head-over-heels. I knew Schwartzman had been the drummer and founder of the band Phantom Planet, known for “California,” the theme song from the TV show The O.C. When I found out he had recorded this CD, I immediately bought it.

Nighttiming is one of the best CDs I’ve heard in a long time. It’s nothing like the over-produced music out now. Schwartzman plays all the instruments and sings all the main vocals, with backup from a few of his famous friends. The songs have simple, often sad lyrics that are offset by upbeat tunes.

The CD starts off softly, with a song of heartbreak and love called “This Old Machine.” Kirsten Dunst accompanies Schwartzman’s vulnerable voice as they sing about waiting for an old machine, which to me is a metaphor for a lover, either lost or recently found. “Nighttiming” is a quirky flashback to 70s disco music, yet Schwartzman avoids the high-pitched voices; instead his voice is deep and soothing.

The lyrics paint colorful images in your mind. Like in “Slowly” he sings, “She looked sleepy as she sat in the sun then she started to cry/ And held me tightly as she started to sing this time’s really goodbye.”

The album’s lyrics make your heart melt. You feel for Schwartzman, and want to just hug him … well at least I do.

RADIOHEAD: In Rainbows

By Sasha Jones, 18, Crossroads School (Santa Monica)

It usually takes me a few listens with any album before I can make up my mind about it. Radiohead’s latest, In Rainbows, was worth the hemming and hawing because the elegance of the arrangements and their delicate complexity soon grabbed hold of me. The album became my soundtrack to the end of 2007.

The first song I obsessed over, “Nude,” is a haunting exploration of guilt and desire combining dream-like orchestration and desperately melancholy lyrics: “Don’t get any big ideas/ they’re not gonna happen.” The rippling keyboard in “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” complements the clarity of lead singer Thom Yorke’s voice as he sings, “I follow to the edge of the earth and fall off.” Recently, I’ve fallen in love with “Reckoner,” a slowly building song that shows off Yorke’s falsetto.

Since Radiohead is one of my favorite artists, I bought the discbox, which caters to Radiohead buffs. It contains the CD, a bonus disc with eight extra tracks, vinyl records of In Rainbows and a booklet of artwork. “All I Need” and “House of Cards” sounded much richer on vinyl. But ultimately the music is all that matters—discbox, CD or download, In Rainbows is worth a listen … or several.

In Rainbows focuses more on lyrical songwriting, compared with Radiohead’s recent albums, while still maintaining the musical idiosyncrasies that characterize all of Radiohead’s work and which draw me back over and over again.