“Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever processed all that happened. I did a show that I was a huge fan of and won,” says 19-year old Jordin Sparks. “A couple years ago I was just a happy-go-lucky, quirky 17-year old. I still feel that way after experiencing so many amazing things. I’m learning more every day, but one thing I know for sure is that to sing for my job is the best thing in the world.”
With the July 21st release of her sophomore project Battlefield (also the title-track of her first single), Sparks is ready for follow-up musical combat showcasing a new look and a confident maturity. The album was mostly recorded in New York, Los Angeles and Nashville with marquis collaborators Dr. Luke, T-Pain, Stargate and Max Martin.
“We recorded several songs to make sure this is as good or better than the first album, because I have my own shoes to fill—and at size 11, they’re some mighty big shoes,” Jordin says with a laugh. “This album has a little more attitude, but not to the point it isn’t still the same girl people know. I think the most growth is in my voice, which has gained strength from touring and performing.” This time around Sparks also co-wrote four tracks on the album, including “911 Emergency,” “Was I The Only One,” “Faith” and “The Cure.” “‘911 Emergency’ is love with an attitude; it’s about a girl who’s fed up because her man is late all the time. I love the attitude in it.”
“‘Faith’ is the encouraging, inspirational song. I wrote this with Toby Gad and Lindy Robbins right before the inauguration, when there was such hope in the country. With what’s going on in the economy now, with the troops still at war and everything the world is going through, it offers assurance that things will be okay for anyone down on their luck or feeling loss. I really fought to get this one on the album. My fans need to hear this. It’s a very simple song, a ballad driven by piano, and it came out so well.”
“The Cure” is the ballad love song and offers a hand to hold. “I wrote this song with Claude Kelly and I love the cool play on words, talking to the person you love: ‘Just come with your heart and leave the rest to me, I promise I’ll be your cure. Just show me where it hurts and I’ll be the medicine you need.’ “’Battlefield’ is a song about love, but with big production and a little more angst. That was fun to sing, because it’s a big song with an edge to it.” The set also includes a cover of Fefe Dobson’s “Don’t Let It Go to your Head,” a personal favorite of Jordin’s, and a bona-fide dance smash, “”S.O.S (Let The Music Play)” which samples the classic Shannon hit.
Sparks was driven by the arts from a young age—but no one could have imagined just how fast ambition would rev into realization by the time the singer reached her mid-teens. Born in Phoenix, her father was an NFL player for the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys, giving Sparks a first-hand view of life in the public eye. Early on, she demonstrated determination to score a musical touchdown, winning a number of talent competitions, including Gospel Music Association’s GMA Academy, NBC/PAX TV’s “America's Most Talented Kids,” Colgate Country Showdown and the Drug Free Arizona Superstar Search. In her home state, she was named Best Young Artist for three years running.
But it was Sparks’ audition for season six of “American Idol” in summer 2006 when the then-16-year-old moved into the fast lane toward international acclaim. After winning KSAZ-TV’s “Arizona Idol” contest and ultimately became the youngest victor on the nation’s No. 1 TV show in May 2007, at age 17.
On the heels of becoming the youngest American Idol winner, Jordin released her self-titled debut album in November 2007 on 19 Recordings/Jive Records, and the critically-acclaimed Jordin Sparks went on to sell over 1.6 million copies worldwide, earning U.S. platinum status, and spawning three Top 5 hits on Billboard’s Pop singles chart including: “Tattoo,” “No Air,” and “One Step At A Time.” Cumulatively, these popular singles have sold almost 9 million downloads/ringtones.
In a year of winning America’s biggest singing competition, completing a series of national and international tours, Jordin Sparks received further recognition as a talented singer in her own right: in addition to winning an American Music Award for Favorite Adult Contemporary Artist and receiving two MTV Video Music Award nominations for Best Female Video and Best New Artist; she earned one of the music industry’s highest honors with a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals for “No Air” in 2008. “I will sing that song [“No Air”] for the rest of my life,” Sparks notes. “It took my breath away the first time I heard it. It can be applied to so many situations. I’ve heard stories from wives whose husbands are away at war, people going through break-ups or who have lost someone. I always wanted to touch just one person through my music, so this is such a cool thing.”
Another high mark for the singer came in April 2008, when she toured with Alicia Keys in the U.S., and again in New Zealand in December. “Listening to ‘The Diary of Alicia Keys’ inspired me, because I wrote a lot of poetry, and realized that it can become music, a song,” Sparks says. “She told me, ‘I consider myself a big sister, and I want to thank you,’ and I said, ‘You’re thanking me?!” Next came a co-headlining stateside outing with Jesse McCartney. “Here’s this heart-throb, which was a totally different experience. The crowds were smaller, more intimate—which gave me a new way to connect.”
Sparks recently completed her stint as the opening act on the Jonas Brothers North American leg of their 52-date tour, which was sponsored by Mike and Ike candies and Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation which is helping to raise funds for children with cancer. The partnership was especially important to her as she has unfortunately had many people close to her in her life diagnosed with cancer. She is currently opening for “The Circus Starring Britney Spears” North American Tour.
After all her success thus far, Jordin still is in disbelief of it all. She says, “It’s been two years and I still wake up and I’m like, am I really doing this? Did this really happen? I get to do this for a living? I don’t know that I’ll ever get used to it. Every day is still such a thrill!”