With the U.S. striving to take on a more positive national tone, it’s fitting that music follows suit. That seems to be the case with “Better Days,” the latest from Jive artist Joe (released Dec. 11).
“I want to poison minds with positivity,” Joe says. “To give people an insight to what’s going on, like with [the song] ‘Ghetto Child,’ saying that even though a child could be from the streets they can meet their highest expectations. That’s the way I see Better Days. I’m speaking for both youth, as well as people who are trying to set better examples for the youth.”
He adds, “I got the idea for this album from a journalist overseas. We were talking about the state of R&B music. He thought it was too risque and that it didn’t have much substance. R&B music needs to have a growth process.”
It’s not as if Joe has not benefited from the current state of R&B. Best known for his sultry ballads, the artist scored his biggest hit earlier this year with a remix of the single “Stutter,” featuring labelmate Mystikal. The track topped The Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks. His last full-length effort, 2000’s “My Name Is Joe,” came onto The Billboard 200 at No. 2. It was surpassed only by labelmates ‘N Sync’s “No Strings Attached.”
Joe admits that this material was, in fact, in line with pervading R&B trends. However, he notes, this time he wanted to raise listeners’ awareness of various issues with each song.
“There were a lot of positive things that I wanted to say that not a lot of people are touching on right now. I wanted songs with substance, songs that would carry throughout time-not just this generation but through to the next.”
One of those songs is “Isn’t This the World.” Written and produced by the Neptunes, the moving track takes a stark look at society.
“I originally recorded it six or seven years ago — before the Neptunes were the Neptunes,” Joe says. “I always remembered the song; it sounds exactly the same now as it did then. I also wanted a song from the Neptunes, but I didn’t want it to sound like a [typical] Neptunes track. I wanted it to feel totally different but still have the chord genius that they’re really capable of doing.”
“Better Days” isn’t all about being uplifting and motivational. The 14-track collection offers its share of romantic ballads, like lead single “Let’s Stay Home Tonight,” a musical departure for Joe.
“It’s a different sound vocally and musically,” the singer says of the song that currently rests at No. 19 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart. “I challenged myself to go into that falsetto style. I’ve sung falsetto off-record, but I’ve never recorded like that. [The song] still has this ‘Joe’ quality about it — my voice and the way the track feels are both very romantic and sexy. It’s a great song to have out right now because everyone wants to stay at home right now — I know I do.”
Although Joe is proud of the single, he hopes listeners will enjoy the entire album for its deeper meaning.
“This album is much stronger, and it has more depth than the first single,” says Joe. “It’s a good first single, but people will have to really listen to the album to fully understand where I’m coming from.”
Jive helped Joe spread his message recently via a series of showcase performances in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C.
“You can just hear the natural evolution of this man becoming one of the premier artists of our time,” says Larry Kahn, Jive’s VP of R&B promotion. “The lyrics on this album are just one kind of ingredient in that evolution. There is a lot more to this album than the smooth pillow talk that he has been known for in the past. This album has really taken him to a new level both musically and lyrically.”
Over his eight-year career, Joe has slowly crafted quite a resume that has prepared him for “Better Days.” “That’s been my plan since day-one,” Joe says. “I’ve watched a lot of artists have great success, and then you don’t hear from them for years. I wanted to get into this slowly in order to show my growth.”