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Pop star JoJo had a promising career at age 13 and beat the odds by extending it another two-plus years, notching several hit singles — chief among them 2004’s “Leave (Get Out)” and 2006’s “Too Little Too Late” — from two major label-distributed albums (JoJo and The High Road) and becoming a popular teen idol.
Then it all came to an end, although there was nothing abrupt about it.
To the contrary, JoJo (nee Joanna Levesque), claims that her label, Blackground Records (once home to the late Aaliyah, who was its first artist signed) and its imprint Da Family Records, have been holding her hostage for the better part of seven years, during which the company failed to release a third (or any other) album as her recording contract stipulated, and is suing to be released from any further obligations to the entities.
The suit, filed in New York State Supreme Court on July 29, alleges a slew of mistreatments that, she claims, would ultimately derail her career. Now nearly a decade older, and no longer appealing to the tween demographic that made her a Top 40 name, JoJo says she’s stuck and wants out.
Further, she alleges that she’s legally allowed to break free of Blackground and Da Family because she’d signed with them as a minor, and laws in both New York and California stipulate that, even though her mother signed the original contract, JoJo could not be bound to it after a period of seven years.
Below, a breakdown of JoJo’s arguments:
• Her original contract sets forth a timeline, during which Blackground would have three years after execution to extend JoJo’s commitment, however “such contract may be for a period of not more than seven years.”
• JoJo says she has been “dissatisfied with her professional relationship with the Da Family Entities and Blackground for many years.” Among her complaints: that the label failed to release her third album despite delivery and acceptance of many master recordings — more than are needed for one album; that they were not able hold onto their distribution agreement with Universal Music (an agreement with Universal/Interscope expired or was terminated around 2012, and there is no current distributor), which was a requirement of the recording contract; and that they neglected to pay producers and “other vendors with whom JoJo has collaborated.” The latter, she asserts, did as much to hurt her reputation as it did those vendors’ bottom lines.
• “By claiming that the recording contract remains in full force and effect,” says the suit, “JoJo has suffered “irreparable damage to her professional career.”
• JoJo’s attorney insists that she’s losing out on other business opportunities so long as she remains contracted to Blackbird and Da Family. These could include touring, merchandise, endorsements, “the ability to make connections with important people” and to generate “favorable publicity.”
• “Time is of the essence,” says the suit of JoJo’s dwindling audience. After acquiring a core fanbase of tweens and young adults while herself a teen, a decade later, she’s singing for girls in their early 20s. The pop window is closing.
• JoJo believes that neither she or her representatives ever received a signed copy of the “joint venture agreement” and deal memo that acts as her contract.
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