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“Grown Up” by Jojo Engelbert

The frustrating experience of being an American teenager has produced some memorable moments in the history of pop music, and contributing her own two cents on the subject this summer is none other than rising star Jojo Engelbert in her new single “Grown Up.” Although stylized with a remarkably simplistic beat, the melodic substance of this track is surprisingly punky and resistant to the conventional harmony/rhythm relationship a lot of Engelbert’s peers can’t help but develop in their own music. There’s more rebelliousness to her sound than we initially expect to find in “Grown Up,” making this both multidimensional and telling of what its creator has on the horizon.

There’s no resistance from Engelbert as she knocks out these verses, and I would even say that she sounds a little eager for the pace of the drums in a few spots. The unevenness manages to work for a couple of reasons, the biggest among them being the natural charm this innocent discord adds to the flow of the music. When she’s being reckless it’s intentional, yet it’s not coming off like some big pose for the benefit of the audience. “Grown Up” lives up to its title compositionally speaking.

This is a great rhythm to get lost in because of how consistent and rigid it is; what colorizes the beat is the springy manner in which our singer delivers her verses to us. There’s bounce to the drums that imparts a lot of youthful vitality where other percussive parts would have simply set the tempo – and that’s it. Efficiency isn’t just about using minimalist aesthetics, but instead about packing as much of a punch into every portion of a song as possible, and in this regard, Jojo Engelbert is putting players twice her age to shame in this single.

The hook in “Grown Up” isn’t the lone focal point in the track, but rather a center from which all of the charisma this young woman has radiates. The buildup to the chorus as well as the instrumental straightforwardness behind the vocal feel just as enthralling as the actual fever pitch of the song does, which lends to the multilayered personality Engelbert has as much as it does her skills as an arranger. She’s a lot smarter than the competition, and if she’s this good in high school, one has to wonder how impressive she’s going to be in the studio by 25.

Overall, “Grown Up” is a terrific introduction to Jojo Engelbert’s sound and a song that embodies the artistic profile she’s creating for herself marvelously. There are some rough edges to her style, but I think they could do her music a lot of good if used in the right way. I don’t think Engelbert should reject the punk side of her sound – in “Grown Up,” it gives her so much more attitude and presence we might not have known she had. The energy and moxie are top-notch, and I’m interested in hearing what they’re going to evolve into from here.

John McCall

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