Saturday, May 7, 2011

Jennifer Lopez's "Love?" Lacks Lola

"Fresh Out the Oven", the first breath from the Love? project, had Lopez confident and aware. The cut gripped the listener in its clasp of late night disco whispered come-on's. A perfectly placed feature from Mr. Armando Christian Perez, a.k.a Pitbull, gave it an even ruder feel. Then, with what promised to be the return of Jennifer Lopez as Lola in 2009, became one of the two years that saw the Love? album setback repeatedly.

Epic Records, unsure of how to promote the track and its subliminal video, wrote off "Fresh..." as a mere "buzz track." They backtracked with a more climate friendly taster in "Louboutins" in 2010. That song, to the knowing, was a clone to the superior fashionista feminism manifesto "Miles in These Shoes" from Brave (2007). When that song, despite some of Lopez's strongest live performances to date, failed to catch on Epic dropped Lopez into the lap of Island/Def Jam Records. There, Lopez began to wrap up an album that still lacked an identity outside of restoring her sales status. In the meantime Lopez found time to take a seat on the American Idol judge panel with Randy Jackson and Aerosmith fronter Steven Tyler.

Love?, Jennifer Lopez's seventh record, attempts to solve the commercial conundrum Lopez courted as early as 2005 with the "only platinum" peak of Rebirth. The real elephant in the room, dismissing its low selling point, was that the previous album Brave was fantastic. Brave's only challengers were Como Ama Una Mujer (2007) and This is Me...Then (2002). All three albums presented that Jennifer Lopez had more bite than her harshest critics ever led the public to believe.

Does Love? tightrope between legacy longevity or "for today" fortunes? The answer is a resounding no to the former and yes to the latter. There is no mistaking that Lopez was never a non-commercial entity, but she did gracefully pick up artistic mileage with each record recorded. Love? barely approaching the transitional highs of Rebirth ties J.Lo (2000) as her worst offering.

Production duties on this fiasco mainly incriminate RedOne, Lady Gaga, Terius "The-Dream" Nash, Christopher "Tricky" Stewart, Danja, and several other mainstream mobsters who warp Lopez's sound into faceless Top 40 oblivion. Previously, La Lopez exerted heavier themes, so "Starting Over" and "Until It Beats No More" shouldn't  have been an issue. They fail on Love? as musically they don't provide adequate staging for her vocal growth to make the songs convincing."On the Floor", the current chart hit, almost raises pulses with a sultry riff of Kaoma's "Lambada" merging with Lopez's voice to echo the sweet rush that made "Waiting For Tonight" a transcendent modern classic. The bulky dance beat hits harder than needed, resulting in "On the Floor's" melodic appeal being bludgeoned by RedOne's production. Mentioning RedOne, his and Lady Gaga's "Invading My Mind" and "Hypnotico" evidence from their overwrought titles, to their listless electro-pop that Gaga's sound isn't one size fits all. "I'm Into You" is sweet enough, though the cameo assist from Lil' Wayne is like sliding a platinum grill front over an already beautiful smile.

Love? is not completely lost, three songs make the record worth the trek through unworthy fare. "Good Hit" is an update on Lopez's Boricua street power, dressing it up in cybertronic camp cool that bring to mind Robyn's "Fembot" from last year's Body Talk (2010). The execution of the playful fussiness that skips along on "Good Hit" is Lopez through and through.

"(What Is) Love?", one of the few tracks that survived the initial sessions of Love?, is where Lopez flourishes. A moving song, it looks to introspection and cute critique. Regardless of any criticism hurled at Jennifer Lopez, she always had spunk in major supply. Whether she was the round the way girl or the diva, Lopez built on her approach-ability by becoming a better singer and songwriter. Love? is the necessary evil of returning commercial clout to La Lopez, but it saps her of all her powers, leaving her unrecognizable. That may work for Britney Spears and her cult in 2011, but Jennifer Lopez's faithful require more stimulation. Or at the very least a little Lola.

"Good Hit" & "Take Care" Virals Behind the Scenes

"Everyone's got to make a living..." went the sampled tagline on her '02 hit "Jenny From the Block." Lopez does have a "brand" to maintain, but that brand always had a heart at its center. Hopefully with the sales coup of Love? it will allow Lopez to return back to being the pop maven she really is. Two and a half stars out of five.-QH

[Editor's Note: Love? in all music retailers now. For current news on Jennifer Lopez, visit her official site.-QH)


jokes said...


Tommy said...

Best overview I've seen of anything by J.Lo so far (esp. like your wrap-up paragraph). I have to admit, I dismissed her early on, back when she was as ubiquitous as Gaga & Beyonce are now. In spite of my initial resistance though, I think I've managed to warm up to her with time. She's practically a pop veteran these days; seeing her go through the ups & downs of the game, take a few creative risks and still come out standing, I think that's the real proving ground. I think your entry summarizes that context pretty well. She's definitely earned her place.

To her credit, I've always been impressed with her in interviews. She's always come across as smart, engaging and articulate, which is more than I can say for many of her supposed peers. And even though this was a decidedly mixed review (I haven't heard the album for myself yet), like you, I'm actually rooting for her this time too..

Rhythmic said...

"The cameo assist from Lil' Wayne is not needed at all, feeling like someone sliding a platinum grill front over an already beautiful smile"

LMAO i love it!...this is probably the most ive ever agreed with u on one of ur practically took every word from my head...listening to this album i literally had to ask myself "is this jennifer?" and not in a good "omg shes showing so much growth" kind of way...but in a "who in the hell is this singing this crap" kind of way...hate her or love her, ive always felt shes sung what she genuinely loves and portrays how she feels and whats shes inspired by at the time...but this album here just sounds like a desperation attempt to snatch the ears of the digital download generation...from the akwardly kiddy artwork to the contrived sound..i was disappointed....amazing review Q

Shaun said...

Great piece. I agree on many of your points, yet I feel that I'm more satisfied with this album than you are. I think LOVE? is a sonic move forward for Lopez, and it leaves me more invested in her than Rebirth or Brave did a few years back. LOVE?: 3.5/5