For anyone who knows me personally, you probably know that I love music; especially songs that empower individuals to do their best and accept themselves as they are. The song, “I Am.”, from pop/R&B singer JoJo’s 2016 album Mad Love., is one that really stands out to me—not just as a piece of musical notation, but as an example of remarkable writing in general. It’s one of those songs that will make the listener feel confident every time they hear it or read the lyrics.
Written by Joanna “JoJo” Levesque, Alex Dezen, Eric Rosse, and Jaden Michaels, the track stems from a difficult time in the singer’s life—one that led to depression, insecurity, and doubt—and, ultimately, a lawsuit against her former record label, the now-defunct Blackground Records. It is a piano-led ballad that is filled with tinges of heartbreak and empowerment. I could easily comment on how much I love the instrumentation, or how incredible I think JoJo’s powerhouse vocals are; however, it’s the lyrical content that stands out to me, especially in a generation where people don’t really know who they are.
Before I go on, let me elaborate on that last sentence. When I say “a generation where people don’t really know who they are,” this is what I mean: We live in a society where technology and social media is everywhere, and information (regarding virtually anything) is right at our fingertips. This can be beneficial in ways—online marketing, for instance—however; it can also cause a significant amount of damage. As a collective, we frequently see all these magazine covers that look flawless, and Instagram posts that demonstrate the so-called “perfect life.” Although I’ve noticed this trend in all forms of media, it appears to be especially prominent in magazines that are targeted towards girls and women (such as Seventeen Magazine). And it’s starting to become a problem.
With the influx of media outlets such as the ones mentioned above—which are often edited to an extreme (with filters, Photoshop, or other means of digital editing)—individuals—namely young girls—may start to feel envious or worthless because they don’t have the lifestyles promoted through these outlets, and some may even resort to drastic measures just to change their appearance and achieve that unrealistic goal of perfection. This state-of-mind is reflected in the opening lyrics, where the narrator channels her feelings of self-doubt, “Mirror, mirror on the wall / you seem to think you know it all / Why do, why do I believe?” and questioning if she is “strong enough.”
Partially due to mainstream and social media, issues like eating disorders have become a rising trend over the years—though there also seems to be a more positive trend. Music artists such as JoJo are creating these inspirational and motivational pieces of writing that will surely inspire listeners to not listen to the pressures of the world; to be confident in who they are; to be resilient and rise up against any challenges they may face in their lives. Throughout the remainder of the song, she tackles her insecurities head-on (with the lyrics, “Can’t be that little girl no more / the one you cut up on the floor.”), and in the end, it’s the repetitive affirmation “I am beautiful” that really inspires listeners.
If I were to expand on that quote, I would say the following as advice to my readers: You are smart; you are talented; you have the ability to make a difference, even if it’s just a small impact on someone’s life; you are loved by so many people; and you are perfect the way you are. Never let anyone tell you any different.