At the start of this month, Jennifer Lopez released her seventh studio album entitled “LOVE?”, the follow-up to her 2007 effort, “Brave”. As a fan of ‘Jenny from the block’ since her début album, “On the 6”, back in 1999, I was eager to get my hands on some new J.Lo tunes after her four-year absence.
With the album “LOVE?”, J.Lo has taken a step away from her familiar setting of R&B infused pop, laced with elements of her latin roots and very much embraced the dance and club geared pop music that artists such as Lady Gaga have made so popular; indeed she has even enlisted Gaga’s producer, RedOne, on this record, with a couple of tracks co-written by him as well.
That’s not to say that she has completely abandoned her earlier sound, more that she has sensibly gone for (or calculatingly followed?) what is currently de rigueur, teaming up with producer-du-jour RedOne, much like Timbaland, DarkChild & Pharrell Williams were before him. While going this route can sometimes lead to an unsatisfactory end product due to “bandwagon jumping” being the driving force rather than that of trying to match the talent with the best-suited producer, J.Lo & RedOne do come out with a fantastic album in “LOVE?”.
It probably helps that RedOne appears to have an ear for melody in conjunction with his own identifiable production sound, even if he does tend to name-check himself still. While I would argue he is not quite in the same league as DarkChild (another name-checker!), who incidentally worked with J.Lo on earlier hits such as “If You Had My Love”, I would say he is better than Timbaland, who when not on form is often reduced to a handful of pops & clicks, not to mention his signature “eh!” stuck on repeat as a backing track. In fact, I would suggest Timbaland is predominantly a producer, whereas DarkChild is equal parts composer and producer; I think RedOne falls more readily into this latter category as well.
The album opens with her first single “On the Floor” featuring Pitbull, an almost by-numbers dance track, not necessarily a bad thing, but I found it to be one of the less interesting tracks present; included on the deluxe version of “LOVE?” is the Spanish version tagged on at the end. I can see why it was picked: it’s extremely chart-friendly and samples a hit-single from the summer of ’89 (Kaoma’s “Lambada”) so was bound to sell well.
Generally speaking, apart from the over abundance of auto-tune on track number two, “Good Hit”, J.Lo’s vocals are arguably the strongest I’ve heard across all of her albums, even if some would say that’s not saying much; to which I would say: not everyone can have a voice like Aretha Franklin, much as I love hers too.
Some of the strongest vocals are on three of my personal favourites from the album: “(What is) Love?”, “One Love” and “Starting Over” all of which, I guess, would be classified as mid-tempo numbers; tracks 4, 8 and 11 respectively. Track three, “I’m into You (featuring Lil’ Wayne)”, is also her second single; a song with a dancehall flavour reminiscent of some of Rihanna’s earlier work, another artist who has focused in her style on the dancefloor sound.
Speaking of whom, it seems that Rihanna’s sound, alongside Lady Gaga’s, is the other major influence on this album, even incorporating elements of “Rude Boy” in the last new song on the album, “Take Care” (track 15). Other tracks included are “Papi” (track 6), like a RedOne reimagined version of “Baila” from “On the 6”, the Gaga-esque “Invading My Mind” (track 9) and “Hypnotico” (track 12), and another one of my favourites, “Villian” (track 10), a suitably creepy-toned number written by Christopher “Tricky” Stewart and Nate “Danja” Hills.
Overall, I would say “LOVE?” is a return to form for J.Lo, after “Brave”, which while a great album did have a couple of weaker ballads on it which interrupted the general quality of the rest of the album. If you’re a fan of J.Lo’s previous work and also like Lady Gaga and Rihanna, I can’t see how you could fail to love this album as much as I do.
Included below are the singles already released from “LOVE?”, “On the Floor” and “I’m into You” respectively: