Jordin Sparks is living a high-decibel life. She's traveling across the country as a special guest on the Jonas Brothers' tour, performing at arenas packed with girls who, as Sparks puts it, "scream way up here, and they just hold it for four hours straight." And even away from the stage, resting in her downtown Chicago hotel room on a weekend afternoon, the 2007 "American Idol" winner is met with the shrill yelps of yet another fan. This time, it's her dog, Maggie. These days, Maggie serves as Sparks' main companion on the road.
Now 19, Sparks has grown up a bit, and she says you can tell from listening to her sophomore CD, "Battlefield." She spoke recently with Melanie Sims of The Associated Press.
How do you compare "Battlefield" with your 2007 debut?
There's a lot more growth, so my voice sounds a little bit more mature. I wanted to pick songs that I related to on some sort of level and that I wouldn't mind singing for the rest of my life. . . . Then, there's four songs that I actually wrote and I'm really, really excited about.
If you could choose one song from the album for someone to listen to, which would it be?
One of the songs that is really, really important to me - and it's one that I wrote - it's called "Faith." We wrote that four days before the [presidential] inauguration, and it was one of those things. And we were thinking about everything going on in the world and our economy and how there's a sense of hopelessness around for a lot of people. And I was thinking about one of my best friends who passed away two years ago - thinking, [what] if I was the person to tell her, "It's going to be OK," and keep her head up, and that she's got people that love her - if she would still be here?
With everything going on around you in the music world, how do you stay connected with what's happening in the real world?
It's when you detach from the real world that your head starts to get bigger, and you're like, "Hey, the world revolves around me." So I definitely try to keep my inner circle really tight, and I keep my friends really close. I need people who are going to tell me exactly how it is - tell me if my outfit looks bad or . . . if my performance is horrible.
You're a big fan of Michael Jackson. How did you take the news of his death?
The crazy thing is, the day before - literally, the day before - I sang "P.Y.T." in my set. And I've been doing that a lot. I love singing his [songs]. So I did "P.Y.T." and "The Way You Make Me Feel" last year on tour and all these different things. Then, all of a sudden he passed away, and [I said], "I totally did his song yesterday." And we were doing "A-B-C, as easy as . . ." and doing the dance and everything, and all of a sudden he was gone. And we were just like, "This is insane."
Michael was always in the public eye. How do you deal with protecting yourself when it comes to the media?
I'm open to an extent. I give them just enough to where they're satisfied, but I don't go too in-depth. . . . Because of "American Idol," you get to know people a lot. There's a lot of people who think I'm like their best friend. And they'll come up and want to hug me . . . I don't think I'll ever get used to it. But it's still really cool I have that kind of relationship with my fans.