Should our screencapper have chosen a less summery image?
Anthony Easton: The introduction is beautiful, and JoJo’s voice is excellent — I was going to say like butter, but it’s more precise than that, without being cold. Also, the way she extends vowels without breaking them could be a lesson in control for most people.
Patrick St. Michel: Noah “40″ Shebib’s production sounds consistently lonely — cold, out-of-time synth waves, beats that sound more like sonar blips, all of it unfolding at the same pace ice in a late-night drink melts. He’s established a very defined sound…but the rub is the artists featured on his tracks rarely run with the vibe. Drake manages to undercut moments of real sadness with eye-roll-inducing complaints about being drowned in women and money, while Alicia Keys and Lil’ Wayne twisted the minimalism into breath-on-neck intimacy. JoJo’s take on “Marvin’s Room” came closest to capturing the chilly atmosphere Shebib’s work hinted at, and it earned her the chance to work with Shebib for real. The end result, “Demonstrate,” isn’t changing Shebib’s track record, as Jojo uses his backdrop as a way to sing about “sexual anxiety” and continue to push her former Kidz-Bop image out of listeners’ minds. Still, “Demonstrate” sounds good even if Shebib’s style is starting to become a little predictable.
Jonathan Bogart: “Leave (Get Out)” was also anchored by a clean-picked guitar sample; the eight years between then and now have seen a corresponding evolution of sophistication and complexity in JoJo’s music and persona. Which is about the most boring way I could think of to say:
Will Adams: Most of JoJo’s initial appeal was that she was a highly melismatic 13-year-old. Now that she’s older, she doesn’t have to be so precocious. For example, the falsetto she employs on “come over” is breathtaking and more than enough to win me over. Unfortunately, I do have to give this the 2012 Worst Song Opening Award for that woozy guitar scale.
Alex Ostroff: The opening wobbly guitar is a misdirect, and stopped me from realizing how great this actually was until recently; strangely enough, the reappearance of that motif in the pre-chorus vocals is one of my favourite parts of the song. Much like Drake’s songwriting, 40′s production is always always significantly more wonderful when not-Drake, preferably a woman, is singing over top of it, and JoJo’s already shown that she knows how to milk the numb fog of his beats for pathos. Shades of “Promise” in the drum patterns and vocals that savour the word “demonstrate” deploy a sultriness absent in “Can’t Do Better,” but JoJo maintains a touch of that song’s rawness to wear her nerves on her heart and her heart on her sleeve. This is a seduction that wants to be as dispassionate as Cassie’s “Me & U” and as confident as Aaliyah’s “One in a Million,” but isn’t really either, and knows it. There’s a lot at stake right under the surface, and JoJo never oversells it.
Katherine St Asaph: “I’m thinking… come over,” JoJo finally says, after several more minutes of not saying what she’s thinking, insisting she’s got freaky shit in mind but unable to spit out what or how. Yes, the melisma demonstrates exactly what she means, and the hook’s lockstep precision and splayed-out melody demonstrate how, but that won’t do, will it? She sings “sexual anxiety” like a mea culpa and “demonstrate” like she knows it’s her final plea before he moves on to someone more forthright. Unless you’ve been there, silent and stammering beside someone warning you not to be, I’m not sure you can understand this. Just be glad I didn’t paste my diary here.
Pete Baran: Less is more R&B, which requires plenty of space to grow, since its backing whilst compelling is decidedly low key in this world of bells and whistles. JoJo’s also decided to play along with the music, play with the music rather than stomping all over it with unnecessary vocal pyrotechnics. Which is all rather admirable in turning out a powerfully subtle song, but I’m damned if I can see how anyone is ever going to notice it.
Alfred Soto: Her voice craggier but forceful and empathetic like Mariah Carey isn’t these days, JoJo shows she’s up to abrupt tempo changes in the roborhythms, not to mention a whole album of Noah Shebib productions. Just keep her away from Drake.
Brad Shoup: The lithe vocal stepping in the pre-chorus was more or less Aaliyah’s trademark. 40′s trademark is giving one the feeling of passing time in the trunk of a luxury rental car. JoJo’s trademark, if she’s not careful, will be spilt melisma on the floor of well-chosen material.
Ramzi Awn: Only JoJo. Pop’s dark horse once again proves that she knows what to do with the hooks of sexual anxiety and the subtlety of instrumental climax. It’s matter over mind in “Demonstrate” — the chorus like JoJo’s body, demonstrating what the verses can’t say. LUSHquietLUSH done right.
Michelle Myers: The problem with R&B in 2012 is that I have grown so accustomed to slow songs being morose accounts of moscato-fueled drunk dialing, that I assumed that this was another dark, sad song. I forgot that R&B slow jams could also be sexy. The premise is funny on paper; is Jojo too embarrassed to talk about her sexual fantasies? This is a silly and awkward thing that happens to everyone, but Jojo manages to turn her “sexual anxiety” into something graceful. She quickly mumbles about the “freaky shit running my mind,” and then the beat switches up and she stretches the word “demonstrate,” relishing in its every phoneme. It’s a powerful case for showing, not telling.