by D. Beall Yes I’m going to be a pop star. Yes I’m going to be a pop star, now. Yes I’m going to be a pop star. Oh mama, mama see me, mama, mama see me I’m a pop star. - Cat Stevens
American Idol and pop star Jordin Sparks leads a pretty charmed life. Her voice is unique and beautiful, her message is positive, and her star has been steadily rising. During the last three years she’s gone more than platinum, won an American Music Award, been nominated for a Grammy and toured with the likes of Alicia Keys, the Jonas Brothers, and Britney Spears. She just dropped her second album, Battlefield, last year, and she just played in Cleveland at the House of Blues on the 17th.
She comes across as irredeemably pleasant, happy, youthful, and has a fine musical background. “Growing up, I listened to a ton of different music. With my mom it was the 80s: Journey, Heart, Pat Benatar, Bon Jovi. With my dad it was r&b and hip hop, Mariah, Whitney, Brandy, Boyz II Men, Outkast, Luther Vandross. Then my nana and papa- I learned about Billie Holiday, Etta James, Patsy Cline and Nat King Cole. I still listen to most of that. And then when I could choose, it was Destiny’s Child, *NSYNC, Christina Aguilera and Celine Dion. But that’s what made me who I am; I’m a mix of everything.” This “mix” came in handy when she won American Idol at seventeen, making her the youngest Idol winner of any season. That was about three years ago.
At twenty, time has passed, yet when Jordin is asked about her fame, it seems the initial shock hasn’t quite worn off. “I don’t know how I feel. I can’t really describe. All I wanted growing up (even though I still am) was to make music. To hear how many singles and cds have been sold is just a trip to me. I couldn’t do it without my fans who voted for me and those who requested my songs and bought the records.”
Where would Jordin Sparks be without her fans (“Sparkplugs”? I’m gonna have to think about that one)? You might ask: where would Jordin be without the Bible Belt’s rabid American Idolaters? Ohio is the only state on her tour besides California that she will visit thrice, and when I ask her why, she’s not sure but says puzzled, “that’s a really good question”. The answer to me is simple. The Bible Belt loves Jordin, an evangelical Christian. She’s a little more “family values” than some of her contemporaries. She’s been known to wear a promise ring symbolizing her commitment to virginity until marriage. Taking a stand for her Christian values has brought her a little bit of controversy. When she responded to Russell Brand’s jokes about promise rings at the VMAs by saying “It’s not bad to wear a promise ring because not everybody- guy or girl- wants to be a slut”, people were upset. She stated afterwards that she should have worded it differently, and unfortunately for the media, that’s about as edgy as Jordin gets. To Jordin, fans are the top priority, not controversy. “They keep me going. I don’t know what’s next, but I hope to be performing in any aspect for a looong time.”
What is next? For one thing, Jordin is going to be appearing on Broadway as Nina Rosario in the Tony Award winning musical (Best Musical) “In the Heights”, about three days in the lives of characters living in the Dominican-American neighborhood Washington Heights. Jordin is optimistic. “I’m more excited than anything. With a regular tour I can do whatever I want with my music. On Broadway, I have to be true to the character and the story. On tour, i can have a show and a day off. [For Broadway,] there’s going to be 8 shows a week with a day off in the middle. I’m going to have to make sure I’m very disciplined so I can keep my voice protected. Broadway is a whole different animal, but I’m up for the challenge.”
Jordin’s challenges often lie in deciding who to perform with next. She’s signed to Jive Records, sharing a label with some of today’s hottest stars and hopes to work with with even more in the future. “I would love to perform with David Archuleta, Jason DeRulo, Fergie, Justin Timberlake, or Celine Dion.” These are big names in an even bigger game. I wonder if she ever finds herself in contact with media sharks that want to make her a little sexier than she is comfortable with. “I think women can be sexy without having to take off everything,” she says. Hmm.
One of her most famous tracks is a duet with Chris Brown called “No Air” (see video below) off of her self-titled debut record. When she recorded “No Air”, she had a bit of a crush on Brown and answers my obvious and slightly rude journalistic probing professionally: “I still think he’s immensely talented and I wish him and Rihanna nothing but the best.” “No Air” is a pop/r&b tour de force, and Jordin is immensely proud of it.
I ask her what, if anything, makes her upset and she responds, “Everyone has their bad days, and i’ve had my fair share. I do have a very long fuse though. It takes a lot to get me to the point where i’m angry. Now, irritated is another story.” She laughs, “I think one of my pet peeves is when someone just uses or take my stuff without asking. I would love to let anyone use it, just ask first.” Damn, I think, and I begin to get paranoid. She must be up to something. Are pop stars really this sweet? Somewhere, there is a bag of kittens floating in a lake and Jordin is responsible. Probably not.