Two years after winning “American Idol,” Jordin Sparks showed up on the show this spring looking more mature, more confident, more refined.
Her new album “Battlefield” (out Tuesday July 21) also attempts to dig a bit deeper than the teen-age pop feel of her debut recording, which generated three top 10 hits and moved more than one million copies.
“I’ve grown up a little bit,’ Sparks said last week during an hour-long press conference in which I got to ask quite a few questions. “But I haven’t gotten too old. I’m only 19. I still have more growing to do and a lot to learn. I’m still the quirky girl who embarrasses herself on a daily basis.”
And her reputation as a “good girl” has remained unscathed. She has not been the target of TMZ cameras or nasty tabloid rumors.
“I am a role model,” she said. “I want to make sure I’m not cussing. I don’t cuss anyway. Sex, drugs and rock and roll. I don’t know about those things!”
Her curse substitutes? “I say mother father. Or shaz. Or shut the front door. Or what the foghorn!”
And so far, the sophomore jinx has not yet reared its ugly head. Reviews for her second effort have been positive (Entertainment Weekly gave it an A-minus). And the first single “Battlefield” is in the top 15 on the pop charts and climbing steadily.
“I’m always on guard,” she said. “I never assume people will like what I come out with.”
“Battlefield” evokes a classic 1980s Pat Benatar song she sang on “Idol” in 2007 “Love is a Battlefield.” But Sparks said it’s pure coincidence.
“When I first heard the song, I fell in love,” Sparks said. “I didn’t think of Pat Benatar at all.” She remains a Benatar fan: “Me and my mom have been listening to her since I was a little kid.”
The record does include a tune “S.O.S,” which samples from another ‘80s singer, the lesser known Shannon, who had a major dance hit in 1984 called “Let the Music Play.” Sparks, who was born in 1989, was not familiar with the song.
But she wanted to test her disco chops.
“I’ll always be the ballad girl from ‘Idol,’ “ she said, “but I wanted to try something new, though not so far that people wouldn’t believe me.”
And while she has already sold more than four million singles off downloads, albums are still a factor. She said she was more than a little frustrated when “Battlefield” leaked on the Web earlier this month and spread like wildfire before today’s release date.
“Of course, we want people to buy it,” she said. We worked hard to put it out there. When it leaks, it’s like we lose a little pice of our heart. It hurts real bad.”
Sparks’ next trip to Atlanta will be August 22, when she will open for the Jonas Brothers at Philips Arena.