Today’s POP RESCUE from an uncertain fate, is the 2001 second album J.Lo by Jennifer Lopez. Does this album make you want to Play it, or is it simply a Lo point? Read on…
This 18 track album bursts open with the dramatic timpani drums and orchestral stabs of hit lead UK single Love Don’t Cost A Thing. The song takes no hostages and jumps straight into the chorus, and it’s such a catchy track. Jennifer’s vocals get a wide range to play with, and she makes full use of that to show that off. The track gave her her first UK #1.
This is followed by I’m Real, which has a wonderfully funky bass line. The chorus reminds me musically and vocally sounds like Michael Jackson is on backing vocals (or at least a sample of him). I had to check the sleeve notes to see whether it was using a sample.. but no, this original, and it’s not him. Whilst not as memorable as the previous track, this is quite a nice little RnB track. It reached #4 in the UK singles charts.
The deliciously bouncy synths usher in Play. This is probably my favourite of her tracks (it’s a short list though), and it acted as the second single giving her a #3 UK hit. The layers of synths really help this song sound fresh and more pop than the previous tracks here. At this point in 2001, DJ culture had grown, resulting in a number of songs referencing DJ’s (Madonna had Music too).
Walking On Sunshine follows, but thankfully it isn’t a butchering of the 1983 Katrina and The Waves hit. Instead, we have Jennifer singing softly over a much lighter synth-filled soundtrack. A dance beat weaves in and out of the track, joined by strings for a bit. It’s quite a gentle track – sounding somewhat muted and stripped-back in contrast to Play, making it feel a little bit like album padding.
The unmistakeable sound of Ain’t It Funny is up next. Rich with latin style, this instantly has a foot-tapping, summer time feel to it. J-Lo’s vocals here work effortlessly through the song, and the oodles of Spanish guitar and castanets make this feel like such a cheerful, up-beat song. The song gave her another hit when it was released as the 3rd and 5th single – in the summer of 2001 and spring of 2002. It reached #3 and #4 respectively.
Next up is Cariño, and the latin style continues here with a flurry of brass and piano. A wonderfully slinky bass joins in and a whole host of percussion follows. Jennifer’s vocals have plenty of excuses to show off her bi-lingual vocal range. Again, it feels like a perfect summer time listen. The song is punctuated by some fantastic trumpets, which get a great solo at around 3m 30s.
The temperature sharply rises, and the lights go down for next song Come Over. This is a sultry, sexually driven track about
ejaculation fever. Production is slick here, and J-Lo’s vocals are rich and enriched by some great backing vocals too.
We Gotta Talk follows, and picks up the pace, for this mid-tempo RnB track, that gives a bit of a nod to the then thriving garage scene. This song wouldn’t go a-miss on a Mis-Teeq album, and whilst this also has some really nice backing vocals, it’s a but forgettable.
That’s Not Me is up next, and this also follows a similar RnB style. There’s a flurry of vocals here over beats and aside from what sounds like some kid’s little Casio keyboard, there’s little else here until the song gets going at about 2m. The bass drum picks up, and some Spanish acoustic styled guitar comes in, and the vocal layers increase, allowing Jennifer to build her vocals up with it. By the end, this is actually quite a good song – it just takes a while to get there.
Tenth track Dance With Me feels like a dancing song from the out-set – with a burst of brass. The song goes on to let J-Lo sing about dancing whilst bass and percussion weave around, with some wonderful tinkling piano thrown in at about the 3min mark.
Finger snaps and piano bring the pace down for Secretly. This track is soft, gentle, and is laden with tiny bells chiming far too much, set to a feint background of birdsong. That odd combination aside, her vocals are really warm and delicate here. At times, it sounds a bit like something from the I’m Breathless album from Madonna, except that lyrically it’s about a man with B.O.
Sounding something like the introduction to Strictly Come Dancing, it’s I’m Gonna Be Alright. This track is quite a catchy little track, and it bounces along courtesy of a ‘re-play’ of elements of 1981’s 8th Wonder by the Sugarhill Gang. J-Lo also sounds vocally confident here, and belts it out at the right moments. This became her 6th UK charting single, reaching #3.
Up next is That’s The Way, soon breezes past the breathy self-referencing producer naming step (Rodney, yes Rodney ‘Darkchild’ Jerkins). The beats here are hard and crisp, acting as a great contrast to J-Lo’s softer tone. Rodney returns to kind of mumble-whisper something-or-other in the background like an annoying wasp, but J-Lo and the backing singers ignore him and get on with the job of delivering a really catchy track.
This is followed by some serious latin sounds Dame (Touch Me), which see’s J-Lo and her mystery male co-vocalist (he goes uncredited – but it’s probably Chayanne) sing mostly in Spanish. The track is laden with 12 string guitars, horns, and strings. The Spanish lyrics continue for the fifteenth track Si Ya Se Acabo, which sees J-Lo singing solo here over a delicious collection of Spanish guitars, horns and vocal layers. Both of these songs sound really summery and percussively and vocally rich.
We’re now into ‘Bonus Tracks’ territory…
First up is Pleasure Is Mine, which returns to the RnB/Garage sounding style – minimalist dramatic stabbing music over a beat. J-Lo takes the vocals with great ease here. She’s joined by backing vocals over the top of a pretty basic synth section from about 2min 20s before it all comes back together again for the final push. This is pretty good.
Penultimate track is I’m Waiting. This starts with a flurry of squeaking synths at about 700bpm, sounding very much like when Mario becomes Super Mario and you have to rush to collect bonuses on a SNES. It’s a bit of a strange addition to the album, although the oddness is purely musical as vocally and lyrically the song fits in with the rest of the songs here. It feels a bit odd as a result to be sat here with the rest of the album. Maybe this is why it’s tucked away at the end as a ‘bonus track’ rather than amongst the rest of the album.
The album closes with the I’m Real (Murder Remix feat. Ja Rule), delightful isn’t it? It opens with the very annoying Ja Rule growling his name in another producer/rapper self-congratulation moment. He really ruins this song. Singer Ashanti is also tucked away on the backing vocals.. if you can spot her. The track also includes a sample of All Night Long by The Mary Jane Girls which helps to give this track the heavier sound. However, stick to pressing buttons, Ja Rule, you ruined this.
Where is Jennifer Lopez now?
Jennifer became J-Lo from this point on, and this involved her slipping away from the pop Jennifer, and into the RnB J-Lo.
At the time of the release of this album, she became the first artist to have both a #1 album and #1 film in the same week with The Wedding Planner (2001). She has gone on to become one of the most influential Hispanic performers in the United States.
Her UK music career success has decreased a little over the last 3 years or so, but J-Lo’s relationships have constantly filled celebrity magazines and websites with rumours, denials, and exclusives – courtesy of three ex-husbands, celebrity boyfriends, and the birth of her twins.
POP RESCUE RATING
Over all, this is a looooong self-indulgent album. 18 tracks makes it more of a slog than a joy. However, there are some really great songs here – Play, Love Don’t Cost A Thing, I’m Gonna Be Alright, That’s The Way, and the two Spanish vocal tracks towards the end.
This is J-Lo as a confident, sexy, woman (and the sleeve artwork helps to affirm this). The rest of it is pretty mediocre, and sadly Ja Rule wrecks the ending.
- POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 3 / 5
- 2001 UK CHART POSITION: #2, certified Platinum.
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.00 from a Poundland store.