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Jennifer Lopez - Topic
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Jennifer Lopez - Topic

The Reel Me Play

The title of The Reel Me is another of J-Lo's intentionally baffling misleading titles, but unlike the bewildering This Is Me... Then -- a title perfectly suited for a compilation, but released as a new album -- this is a little easier to figure out. The Reel Me collects all of Lopez's music videos, from On the 6 to This Is Me, interspersed with interviews with the diva as she reminiscences about her life and career (these interviews are inaccurately called commentaries on the DVD menus and publicity stickers; there is no audio commentary on this DVD). If this were a straight-up DVD, this title wouldn't be quite so confusing, but since it was released in the era of multiple repackagings, this is available as a DVD with a bonus EP (packaged in a keepcase) and a EP with a bonus DVD (packaged in a digipak). In either format the EP is forgettable, filled with passable remixes of singles from the This Is Me that all fall short of being interesting, but the DVD is excellent, containing all of Lopez's videos and including a good 5.1 mix as well. While the interviews are all promo puff pieces, they can be amusing, and are fun to watch once. But the real reason to get this is for that collection of videos, which were among the best of the dance-pop renaissance of the early 2000s. They'll likely be repackaged again, but any repackage will likely use this as the standard to beat. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Brave Play

Brave follows Como Ama una Mujer, Jennifer Lopez's first Spanish-language album, by a matter of seven months -- a quick follow-up by any measure, but perhaps one that reflects the lack of buzz Como created. On paper, Brave should be the polar opposite of its immediate predecessor -- it's in English where the other was in Spanish, that album was moody and dramatic, this is light and peppy -- but despite these superficial differences, the two albums have a number of similarities, chief among them that they are the work of a woman settled and happy in her marriage. Jennifer kicks off the album with "Stay Together," an anthem of monogamy where she declares that heartbreak and dating are so passé, that toughing it out is the new trend, and the rest of the record kind of plays off that theme, as nights out on the town are traded for cozy nights at home. While Lopez may have domesticity on her mind, Brave is still a dance album, filled with bright beats and happy hooks, but this isn't music for clubbing, it's dance music for home, maybe background music for some chores. As such, it doesn't sound fresh -- there's nothing that reflects any current dance trends, not even a passing nod at Justin Timberlake's neo-electro or crunk -- it sounds stuck in 1999, when J-Lo released her first album, or perhaps even in 1989, when she was a Fly Girl on In Living Color. It's the sound of a housewife looking back and remembering when things were a bit more carefree -- it's nostalgia, but tempered with happiness, since she's perfectly content with where she's at now. So, Brave is comfortable, it doesn't try too hard, it doesn't have many surprises, but it's cheerful and not without its charms, as it's a throwback that's done without a hint of self-consciousness or irony. It's nothing more than modest music for mellow good times, but it's lively enough to be fleeting fun, with enough good tunes for a mild party, preferably one that's held at home. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Rebirth Play

The last time Jennifer Lopez made an album -- 2002's This Is Me... Then -- she was deeply love with actor/Academy Award-winning screenwriter Ben Affleck, a relationship immortalized in the video for "Jenny From the Block" and "Dear Ben," a ballad that rivals Billy Bob Thornton's "Angelina" as the greatest celebrity love song of the 2000s. Of course, the relationship was also immortalized in the notorious Martin Brest disaster Gigli, released eight months after This Is Me, and that film's abysmal box office was the beginning of the end for the couple, whose engagement was called off in early 2004. Lopez rebounded quickly with a marriage to Latin pop singer Marc Anthony and with the new romance came an opportunity to restart her career -- hence Rebirth, the title of her fourth album. While she doesn't avoid the subject of her highly publicized romantic life, she does bury two seemingly confessional ballads at the end of the record (not counting the album-concluding reprise of the opening single, "Get Right"). Voyeurs may find interest in "He'll Be Back" (a tune not written by Lopez, but a breakup song that certainly recalls the Bennifer saga) and "(Can't Believe) This Is Me" -- a collaboration with her new husband that suggests Lopez may not have learned the lesson of Gigli -- but they're easily the worst moments on an album that's otherwise a sleek, sexy blast. Apart from those turgid ballads, Rebirth is a straight-ahead dance album, alternating between sweet, breezy pop tunes like the irresistible "Still Around" and hard-driving club tracks like the surprisingly heavy, infectious "Cherry Pie." Lopez may not be a flashy singer, but she's appealing on record precisely because she and her collaborators -- chief among them executive producer Cory Rooney -- know those limitations and present them in tuneful packages with big, exciting beats. Since it doesn't deviate from the blueprint she's followed on her first three albums, it's hard to call this record a literal creative rebirth, but song for song, Rebirth has more energy and better hooks than her other albums. It may not be deep, but it sure is fun -- and after the tumult of 2003 and 2004, Lopez sure does deserve to have a little fun. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Love? Play

Jennifer Lopez began work on her seventh album in 2007, while she was pregnant with twins. After a change of label, as well as a promotion to the Paula Abdul seat on American Idol, she finally returned properly with Love?, a deeply personal album featuring collaborations with the-Dream and Tricky Stewart (Rihanna's "Umbrella"), Pitbull, and RedOne (Lady Gaga). ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi

Como Ama una Mujer Play

Marriage can change a person, and it sure seems to have changed Jennifer Lopez. Ever since she tied the knot with salsa superstar Marc Anthony, Lopez has quietly receded from the tabloids, retiring her J-Lo appellation in the process, and turning toward the same Latin audience that is Anthony's constituency. She took a supporting role as his wife in the biopic of legend Héctor Lavoe, El Cantante, but before that hit the theaters in the summer of 2007, she released her first all-Spanish album, Como Ama una Mujer, in March. What's startling about Como Ama una Mujer is that it sounds as if Lopez is not only content to play his wife on screen, she's content to now make music for housewives, which this album most certainly is. This is a slick, ballad-heavy affair that pointedly avoids any current trends either among Latin record-buyers or crossover artists, along with pointedly avoiding the intoxicating, glittery dance-pop of her English-language releases. Certainly, it's not as daring as Shakira, but it's not as thrilling as any random video you'll see on Latin MTV -- and it's by far the most sedate Lopez has ever been on record. She acquits herself well as a vocalist -- she never indulges in vocal gymnastics, and she can carry a tune strongly. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

On The 6 Play

Jennifer Lopez's debut album, On the 6, showcases the actress' sultry, versatile voice in a number of settings, including pop ballads, Latin pop, and R&B. Star producers like Sean "Puffy" Combs, Trackmasters, and Emilio Estefan, Jr. lend their talents to the album, making On the 6 a perfectly polished and varied album, which features a musical blend Lopez calls "Latin soul." Smooth ballads such as "Should've Never," "Too Late," "Could This Be Love," and "No Me Ames," a duet with Latin superstar Marc Anthony, dominate the album's first half; while these songs show off the gentler side of Lopez's vocal gifts, they tend to sound too similar. It's on the R&B and Latin-tinged tracks where Lopez really shines. Along with the insistent first single "If You Had My Love," cuts like "Feelin' So Good" and "Let's Get Loud" have a fiery, soulful sound more in keeping with Lopez's public persona. On the 6's second half capitalizes on this spicy, upbeat side, particularly on "Waiting for Tonight" and "Open off My Love," which draws inspiration from rap, R&B, and Latin styles with its sparse arrangement of horns, keyboards, and beats. The tropical remix of "No Me Ames" and "Una Noche Mas," the Spanish version of "Waiting for Tonight," emphasize Lopez's distinctive heritage, which elevates On the 6 from a star's vanity project to an individual but accessible work of pop songcraft by a widely talented performer. ~ Heather Phares, Rovi

J. Lo Play

Most snickered when Jennifer Lopez made her pop move in 1999, figuring that it was no more than a one-off vanity project. As it turns out, she was as serious about her pop career as she was about acting, and even if she didn't possess a particularly distinguished voice, she was earnest and had some good mainstream pop singles, delivered with some seriously sexy videos. On the Six was big enough of a success to raise expectations for its sequel, J-Lo, the first self-styled blockbuster of 2001. Essentially, this is the same album as On the Six, only a little longer with a little less focus and not as many memorable songs. This lack of winning singles becomes a drag, since at over an hour, the record meanders much longer than it should. Yet, meander isn't really the right word, because the album sets its tone from the start, with the ingratiating "Love Don't Cost a Thing." From that point on, the tinny, skittering drum machines, smooth midrange, and alluringly thin vocals remain the same from song to song, with the occasional Latin cut thrown in to vary the rhythm somewhat. Since both the production and Lopez play it cool, not hot, and there's not that many hooks, it all tends to blend together. Those that have hooks need a couple of spins before they catch hold, whether it's the aforementioned lead single "Love Don't Cost a Thing," "I'm Real," "Play," or "We Gotta Talk." Lopez's strong suit remains dance tunes, not ballads, which tend to disappear in this reserved production and mannered vocals (no more so than "Secretly," which never seems to gel). So, J-Lo winds up as musically a mixed bag. Its longer running time makes it a little less appealing than its predecessor, yet it has just about the same number of strong songs, all of which sounding of a piece with On the Six, which makes it a success on a certain level. Still, there's this certain feeling of staid complacency and ordinariness that makes J-Lo feel less fun than her debut. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

This Is Me... Then Play

Don't pay attention to the title, which is absolutely nonsensical and bewildering -- it suggests that This Is Me...Then is a compilation, which it isn't, and it also suggests that this has some sort of theme, which it doesn't -- and concentrate on the music, which is the strongest, sultriest, best music Jennifer Lopez (who has abandoned the moniker J-Lo) has recorded for any of her three albums. This, of course, doesn't mean that it's a radical musical departure, though there are differences here -- the glitzy dance-pop has been phased out, there's a stronger urban soul vibe, particularly on the lush surfaces and sexy grooves -- but it does mean that the album has a solid set of songs and a sharp production pitched directly at the mainstream of 2002, yet with nice allusions to classic soul and early-'80s pop-funk and soft rock. Since Lopez is a celebrity and a regular feature on gossip pages in the early days of the 21st century, and since she's unabashedly mainstream -- her only attempts at street-cred are on the laughable lyrics to "Jenny From the Block," where she insists that success hasn't spoiled her yet and she's the same ol' Jen she's always been (if so, why the paparazzi on the back cover?) -- it's easy for some listeners to dismiss her, but it's harder to make to make a pop album as easily enjoyable as this. Sure, there are some flaws -- as mentioned above, "Jenny From the Block" is silly and no matter how much you love Ben Affleck, "Dear Ben" is unbearably mawkish -- but all mainstream pop albums stumble through filler. What counts is the overall feel and the highlights. Here, the feel is sexy, stylish, and fun, and there are numerous highlights, all feeling effortless. And if you think that's easy to do, take a listen to a few other pop-R&B albums from late 2002 (Stripped and Charmbracelet come to mind) and hear how good this record is. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Dance Again...The Hits Play

Arriving just weeks after Jennifer Lopez announced her departure from American Idol, the compilation Dance Again...The Hits was in the works before J-Lo joined AmIdol -- she departed Epic for Island/Def Jam after 2007's Brave yet owed her old label a hits collection -- but undoubtedly Lopez's two years on the singing competition boosted her profile and popularity, elevating Dance Again to something more than contract fulfillment. That much is evident from the two new recordings, "Dance Again" and "Goin' In," tracks that feature Pitbull and Flo Rida, respectively, cuts designed for the dancefloors of 2012 just as the two post-Idol hits from 2011's Love? -- "I'm into You" and "On the Floor" -- were. These hard, cold constructions feel especially steely when paired with the fizzy, glitzy turn-of-the-millennium hits that turned Lopez into a pop star. Not all of her charting singles are here but the ones MIA are not the ones that immediately pop to mind ("Play," "I'm Gonna Be Alright," "I'm Glad," and "Hold You Down" are among the absent singles). What is here are the big hits -- "Love Don't Cost a Thing," "Waiting for Tonight," "If You Had My Love," "Jenny from the Block," "I'm Real," "Get Right," the latter two in the remixes that burned up the charts -- along with the comeback hits, so this should satisfy casual J-Lo fans of any stripe. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

J to Tha L-O!: The Remixes Play

Given that Jennifer Lopez's uptempo material tends to work much better than her slower recordings, there would seem to be some potential for an album of remixes of her dance-oriented tracks as more than just a stopgap between regular releases. But J to tha L-O!: The Remixes is a collection of odds and ends. Of course, as usual, the term "remix" is a misnomer; these are versions of Lopez recordings to which other elements have been added, not simply remixes of the existing tracks. The first four rhythmic tracks (which aren't as dance-worthy) are really Lopez-plus-rapping, the next few selections will work well on the dancefloor, starting with the Metro remix of "Walking on Sunshine." Pablo Flores' remix of "Let's Get Loud" is particularly impressive, and Hex Hector's take on "Waiting for Tonight" casts the song as a traditional Hi-NRG workout. The album concludes with a track that isn't a remix, the ballad "Alive" from Lopez's 2002 film Enough. ~ William Ruhlmann, Rovi
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