Joss Stone’s Road To Glory

Joss Stone spent her teen years in the rural town of Devon, where she bought her first album, Aretha Franklin’s Greatest Hits, which inspired her to become a singer. At the age of 14, she auditioned for a popular BBC show, Star for a Night.

Therein, Joscelyn thought that she could do better than the indistinguishable flock of pop star wannabes, who were mangling the popular classics. Once onstage, the audience expected another squeaky blonde cutie to sort of entertain them; but out of this giggly teenager came a vocal reincarnation of Gladys Knight rolled up with Janis Joplin and a dash of Dusty Springfield, as she performed Aretha Franklin’s classic “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” She was signed to an agent right away.

Stone began working on her third studio album, Introducing Joss Stone, at Compass Point Studios in Nassau, Bahamas, in May 2006. It was released on 12 March 2007 in the UK on Virgin Records, involving production by Raphael Saadiq and collaborations with Lauryn Hill, Common, and Joi. Virgin describes it as “an electrifying mix of warm vintage soul, ’70s-style R&B, Motown girl-group harmonies, and hip-hop grooves”. Stone herself describes it as “truly me. That’s why I’m calling it Introducing Joss Stone. These are my words, and this is who I am as an artist”. She also revealed on The Tavis Smiley Show that her break-up with Beau Dozier was a source of inspiration while writing Introducing Joss Stone. The album debuted at number twelve on the UK Albums Chart. It also debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 selling 118,000 copies in its first week, becoming the highest debut for a British solo female artist on the U.S. charts, surpassing the record previously held by Amy Winehouse with Back to Black. It has sold 60,000 copies in the UK since its release, gaining silver status on the charts.

Joss Stone may have cast off her sunshine-sweet hippy image and become a scarlet-haired siren for this, her third studio album, but she appears to have devoted more attention to her appearance than her material. Despite skillful production by Raphael Saadiq (Mary J. Blige, the Roots, TLC), Introducing… is an unremarkable collection that blends uptempo, Motown-esque beats with Stone’s trademark crooning. The lead single “Tell Me ‘Bout It” is typical of this sound: Built from equal measures faux-vintage production effects and sexually-amped lyrical platitudes, it is pleasant, but wholly forgettable.

Typically, artists dispense with introductions after their debut — after all, that is an album designed to introduce them to the world — but neo-soul singer Joss Stone defiantly titled her third album Introducing Joss Stone, thereby dismissing her first two relatively acclaimed albums with one smooth stroke. She now claims that those records were made under record-label pressure — neatly contradicting the party line that her debut, The Soul Sessions, turned into a retro-soul project after Joss implored her label to ditch the Christina Aguilera-styled urban-pop she was pursuing — but now as a young adult of 19, she’s free to pursue her muse in her own fashion. All this is back-story to Introducing, but Stone makes her modern metamorphosis plain on the album’s very first track, where football-star-turned-Hollywood-muscle Vinnie Jones talks about change (“I see change, I embody change, all we do is change, yeah, I know change, we’re born to change” and so on and so forth), setting the stage for some surprise — which “Girl They Won’t Believe It” kind of delivers, if only because it isn’t all that different from what Stone has done before. It’s a sprightly slice of Northern soul propelled by a bouncy Motown beat that doesn’t suggest a change in direction as much as a slight shift in aesthetic.

Jon Caldwell has been an avid fan of Joss Stone. You can find more resources on Joss Stone at http://www.Joss-Stone.org

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