It has been six years — a pop eternity — since Jordin Sparks released her last studio album, Battlefield. Since then, the 2007 American Idol winner has made her Broadway debut in In the Heights, starred in the movie remake of Sparkle and had a much-publicized romance — and breakup — with Jason Derulo. Now dating rapper Sage the Gemini, the 25-year-old is back to music with her third LP, Right Here Right Now (Aug. 21, 19/Louder Than Life/RAL).
My biggest comeback fear: “The landscape has changed so much that it was just like, ‘Is this going to work? Will people still care?’ I think it was natural to have those doubts after six years without a solo record. Everything is so different now. I had to learn the ropes again.”
My most “turned up” new track: ” ‘It Ain’t You.’ DJ Mustard had the beat, and Ty Dolla Sign had already written a song to it, but I was like, ‘There’s no way that I can say these lyrics!’ So we rewrote the verses and left the chorus. It’s my response to all those songs that are dissing me as a woman.”
My most sentimental new song: ” ’11:11.’ It was inspired by my mom always texting me ‘Make a wish’ at 11:11 in the morning or at night. It’s really sweet when somebody’s thinking of you like that.”
My musical hero: “It’s between Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey — I can’t even choose. I got to work with Whitney [on Sparkle]. She was so kind, so encouraging. Before I go onstage to sing now, I hear her voice in my head: ” ‘You got this!’ “
My favorite fellow Idol: “The OG, Kelly Clarkson. She’s so amazing. I remember watching her win, turning to my mom and being like, ‘I want to do that,’ not knowing that I would ever audition or that Idol would even be around that long.”
My rebound: “People think that a celebrity breakup is different, and it is in the way that it’s public. But you still feel the same sort of pain and confusion. I just had to deal with it. And I played Big Sean‘s ‘I Don’t F— With You’ multiple times a day!”
This story originally appeared in the Aug. 29 issue of Billboard.