By making her debut in a legendary biopic Selena (1997), Jennifer Lopez not only received a Golden Globe nomination, but also became the first Latin actress to earn over US$1 million for a film. As her fame was growing, she starred in other very successful movies like Anaconda and Out of Sight.
However, Jennifer Lopez was much more than only an aspiring actress. With the help of producers like Rodney Jerkins, Emilio Estefan and Puffy (he was also her boyfriend at the time), she released her debut album On The 6 in 1999, which peaked in the top ten in United States.
And as everybody (read: major labels) knows that popular saying, strike while the iron is hot, Jennifer Lopez couldn’t just sit and wait to lose her position at the top, and recorded her second album J.Lo hastily after.
There are a few very interesting things about the album J.Lo. First of all, Jennifer wanted to name the album The Passionate Journey, but in the end she paid a homage to her supporters, who had given her this excellent nickname.
Secondly, the physical CD gave die-hard fans a special access to exclusive bonus features via the singer’s official website. The same week J.Lo debuted atop the US Billboard 200 album chart, The Wedding Planner also opened at number one at the domestic box office. This made Lopez the first artist to have a number one longplay and film simultaneously. From time perspective, the album guaranteed celebrity long and stable career, but how does it sound today?
J.Lo could be described very easily: a simple copy + paste from Lopez’s debut album. But as much as this might sound as an offense, it actually isn’t. The combination of Latin melodies with pop (as Lopez revealed, “I don’t think what I make is real Latin pop. I make pop music that has some Latin influence“) and R&B worked so good, both artistically and commercially, that it could be only a stupid decision from the label to change anything at that time.
Lopez said about the record, “I’ve grown musically, vocally, and everything“, and wanted her second album to be more of “a reflection of who I am, my own experiences“. She included more personal songs, dealing with themes of relationships, and sex.
So, the opening track (and also the very first single) “Love Don’t Cost A Thing” sounds like an elder brother of “If You Had My Love”, while the delicate “I’m Real” is just a more sophisticated and extensive version of “Feelin’ So Good”, and “Walking On Sunshine” is like a welcome continuation to the techno-disco anthem “Waiting for Tonight”.
But of course, as with any pop mainstream album from rising superstars, J.Lo is also full of unnecessary material. The ballads like “Come Over” and “Secretly” are some of the horrible examples, where Jennifer Lopez sounds like she’d like to join La Face record label and adapt this “debut-Pink-white-R&B-tunes”.
Her voice was always technically limited, and it’s not well-suited to all those slow jamz. Also, “That’s Not Me” and “That’s The Way” (even the titles are similar) are too contrived, and simply redundant. All of that, makes J.Lo a little too long and wearisome.
The real deal of the album are two completely different singles, “Play” and “Ain’t It Funny“, because that’s exactly the moment when Jennifer Lopez is standing between the pop/R&B and Latin sounds, and it seemed like she couldn’t be one foot out of the door any longer.
The first track “Play” was a perfect mix of dance-pop and electro, and the music video directed by Francis Lawrence, was one of the most played clips that year. Yahoo! Music UK journalist, Jake Barnes, described the track as resembling the music of Prince.
“Ain’t It Funny” had too much Latin-influences to be included for The Wedding Planner soundtrack, so Jennifer released it later on her own. The melody immediately reminds you of “La Isla Bonita” by Madonna, but that minor criticism didn’t harm the success of the track.
Jennifer Lopez soon found out what the public expected her to be. After releasing “I’m Real (Murder Remix)” featuring Ja Rule (minus the controversy of her saying the N word), it was obvious people wanted her to focus more on a pure R&B sound.
“Ain’t It Funny (Murder Remix)” and “I’m Gonna Be Alright” featuring Nas (the original Track Masters Remix features 50 Cent) were also hot crossover R&B joints, and as Jenny released J to tha L-O! The Remixes and later This Is Me… Then, she established her position straight in the American charts, and basically went off from her Latin roots until she recorded Como Ama una Mujer in 2007.
J.Lo is the most commercially successful album of Lopez’s discography. It had sold 8 million copies worldwide. Jennifer Lopez (next to Ricky Martin and Enrique Iglesias) was one of the biggest Latin-oriented artists at the beginning of 00s, and as this trend is coming back into the business, this longplay is a great example how a mainstream album should be done. And till this day, Lopez is a song-and-dance woman as a whole.
Jennifer Lopez J.Lo is out now via Sony Music, purchase it on iTunes here, and stream it below.
Words by Julia Borowczyk