Monday, 9 May 2011

Music review: Love? by Jennifer Lopez...

Advantages: Mix of musical styles, summery music, nice artwork
Disadvantages: No more strong single contenders, she's playing it too safe.

LOVE? is the seventh studio album by singer/actress Jennifer Lopez. Work began on the album during the pregnancy of her twins, but the lack of success with her previous three albums lead to Epic Records [part of Sony] testing the waters with two U.S. single releases [Louboutins and Fresh Out The Oven] for a gauge as to the size of her fanbase. The singles were huge flops and failed to receive radio play, so LOVE? was shelved and Epic dropped her - err, I mean they mutually parted ways with her, after briefly starting work on a Greatest Hits album.

Luckily for Jennifer Island [part of Def Jam] decided to take a chance on her and hired L.A. Reid and RedOne as executive producers and charged them with sourcing new material to update the album before release. Individual track producers of the finished product include Mike Caren, D'Mile, Danja, The-Dream, Lady Gaga, StarGate and Tricky Stewart.

Jennifer has said in loads of interviews over the years that she doesn't like being referred to as J.Lo any more as that was just a character, but lo and behold - J.Lo is back. Literally back, J.Lo is stamped on the album and single covers instead of her name. A glance in the booklet is the same old checklist; fur coat? Check. Bling? Check. Barely there clothing? Check. Shades? Check. So with the artwork being blasts from the past the question becomes, will the actual album be a look back over her back catalogue too?

LOVE? boasts an impressive list of song writers, which includes the likes of Lady GaGa, RedOne, Evan "Kidd" Boggart, Jorgen Elofsson, Diana Gordon, Taio Cruz, Tammar Chin, Claude Kelly and Aliaune Thiam.

Even though Jennifer Lopez has publicly stated that this is her most personal album it is worth noting that she has only co-wrote two songs; One Love and Villain.

On The Floor [feat. Pitbull]

[Contains a sample of Los Kjarkas song Llorando Se Fue, which is popularly known for being used in the Kaoma single Lambada]

Since Jennifer's last collaboration with Pitbull went so well [Fresh Out The Oven] it was only natural that she would team up with him again. The result sounds like her old On The 6 singles and it was meant to; Jennifer asked writer/producer Redone to come up with a track that was the evolution of her classic sound and the lead single was the result. Lyrically it's follows a basic 'get down and boogie' formula, but the r&b/pop/Latin/Lambada music screams summer, so this is a very appealing song. I didn't like it at first, but once you hear it it takes root in your head and you'll be humming it for months.

Good Hit

I view this as a filler; it's not bad and it's not something that I tend to skip, but there's nothing here that hooks me in.
It's a empty pop/r&b driven song,  with uninspired lyrics about how hot she is, so don't you wish that she was yours? I've listened to it many times to review and I still can't think of anything worth adding to this description, it's just meaningless noise.

I'm Into You [feat. Lil Wayne]

Apparently Lil Wayne is Jennifer's favourite male rapper, so  she asked him to feature on this Taio Cruz written track.
The song isn't too complicated or anything; Jennifer's lines are mainly about being into the attraction of her partner, whilst Lil Wayne mostly hangs in the background and just adds nudge nudge, wink wink quips. This is another track that I wasn't keen on at first, but the music once again seems happy and summery, which coupled with repetitive vocals means it will grow on you.

(What Is) LOVE?

[Appeared the soundtrack to The Backup Plan]

This was one of the first songs to leak a few years ago and I still love it. The song is about not knowing what love is and the writers say that they drew inspiration from tales from women with "no fathers, families, abusive boyfriends and husbands... no parental support, they feel alone". Now I'm not classing Jennifer Lopez in with these tough survivors, but she does channel  the emotions of loneliness and quiet sadness in the lyrics.
The only thing that I was slightly disappointed with was that the track hasn't been remixed for the album; it's same as it was when it was first leaked.

Run The World

This comes very close to being a filler; bland lyrics telling someone that Jennifer will always be by their side. Music-wise it reminds me of a pop/r&b J.Lo era song [with a touch of Rebirth's Hold You Down thrown in] and it's annoying me that I can't remember which one.

The rapper is Rick Ross. Doesn't mean anything to me, but it might to other people. He doesn't actually do much here, so he doesn't earn a 'featuring' tag.


Placing this track next to another bland track was a mistake as this is another ho-hum track, which again lyrically tells us about how great she is [a super lady]. Yeah; hearing the title I was expecting a attitude laden track attacking the tabloids, but instead it's papi as in the slang term for a hot guy. So once again it's dancing + guys = we get a load of nothing.
But the music comes to the rescue and makes up for the empty lyrics; it's another summery r&b/pop/Latin upbeat number, so it could do well as a single.

Until It Beats No More

The lyrics of this ballad reminds me slightly of Ain't It Funny [obviously the original version, not the Murder Inc remix] and Alive, plus it is also reminiscent of (What Is) Love? Basically Jennifer's through with being hurt in love, but just when she's thrown in the towel along comes her knight in shining armour.
There's no doubt that Jennifer's vocals have grown, but she just isn't vocally suited to ballads; you can hear the strain as she gamely attempts the high notes. Even if she had the voice of Mariah Carey I probably still wouldn't take mega-bling, 3 hubbies J.Lo's attempts at soul searching and declarations of undying love terribly seriously.

One Love

This is very similar to (What Is) Love; this track is telling us about Jennifer's search for love. I get the references to P Diddy, Ben Affleck and Marc Anthony, but all I can think is what about hubbies one and two (or maybe he is 'round two')?
It's another snooze fest musically - part Run The World, part (What Is) Love, but not as good as either - and remember that I don't love Run The World. It wouldn't be as noticeable if they'd took inspiration from tracks from an earlier album, but no, they take it from two tracks from the same album.

Invading My Mind

This is a Lady GaGa/RedOne track, so has dancier electro beats. I naturally wanted to love it, but it is just a weaker version of Just Dance.
The listener is one more reminded that Jennifer is hot, but for a change we hear about how great some one she meets is and how much the sparks fly between them. Sadly this is another track that I can't think of anything valid to add.


This is another favourite of mine; Jennifer sings about being the one to end a relationship that wasn't working and so being made out to be a cold villain because of it. I may not be able to take Jennifer's slow songs seriously, but I can hear the sincerity it her voice on this track.
The lyrics may seem heartfelt, but the music is electro/r&b, to keep the track upbeat and prevent from being all 'poor me, I'm the real victim'.

Starting Over

This is another heartfelt vocal. Jennifer says that she is in love with her partner, but deep down she knows the relationship isn't working, yet she is scared to end it and being back to square one. Not bad, but it's really just a mishmash of other album tracks.
It is lyrically a ballad, but I don't think the music is slow enough and it had an annoying synth beat that drowns out the piano and strings.


Another Lady GaGa/RedOne track, another track that I wanted to love - but don't. Musically the electro pop/dance beat is stronger than Invading My Mind, but lyrically I'm still not sure what exactly it's about,; dancing in a club, whilst the men all drool over her I think.
The music just about saves the track from being labelled as a filler, but I once again wanted/expected more from this track, considering the writers/producers.

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Worth buying?
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On the plus side: LOVE? mixes R&B, dance and pop, with a ballad thrown in, so there is variety in music styles and there will be something on LOVE? to appeal to most pop music lovers.

Plus; there has been continual growth on Jennifer's vocals - you can clearly recognize the improvement on every new album she releases. Whilst it's true that she does audibly strain her vocals and slightly tremor because she tries to stretch herself too far on Until It Beats No More, on every other track she does have greatly improved vocals - compared to her earlier work - when she stays with what styles suit her.

How well you think everything all comes together ultimately on LOVE? depends on how big of a Jennifer Lopez fan you are - the more casual fan will ultimately be a little disappointed by how heavily she has borrowed from past albums and topped up the albums running time with limp, lifeless tracks. Bigger fans will doubtlessly love the retro feel to the tracks and hail LOVE? a successful return to form for her.
Although LOVE? is more solid then her past albums given the fact that I don't feel the need to skip over any of the tracks [bare in mind that the slower songs were performed on American TV and her tour a few years ago and several other tracks have been floating around on the net for over two years now], I'm still underwhelmed by the album in general as she doesn't offer anything new for the listener - she is playing it too safe.

Several tracks are bland and uninspired and everything feels dated, even the new tracks. I look back at her old albums and automatically place everything together on them - there's a huge dollop of her Brave era stuff here and everything else has been heavily influenced by her successful J.Lo alter-ego and rent-a-rapper from her lucrative J.Lo/J To Da Lo period.

I'm trying to think of which tracks would make good single releases and I've just found out that the two I singled out - (What Is) Love and Papi - were released on U.S. Itunes ahead of the album to try and create a buzz. So now I'd guess on them following up I'm Into You with one or both of the Lady GaGa penned tracks to try to appeal to the GaGa fans too, but whilst I'm a huge GaGa fan I have to admit that they both are below GaGa's usual standard - no wonder she gave the songs away rather then record them herself.  As things stand I think that if there are any more singles released she'll hire more rent-a-rapper's to mix up them up, as I can't see any strong contenders on LOVE? at the minute.

Based on LOVE? I'd say that there is definitely room for improvement in her [just musical?] career. She's not evolving, she's taking steps back. I think that she should have stuck to the original plan of releasing a Greatest Hits collection with one or two new tracks - she doesn't have enough new single worthy tracks to attempt a new album and I doubt LOVE? will set the charts alight as a result.

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Deluxe edition
[Digipack case, with four bonus tracks]
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None of the extra tracks are worth indulging in the deluxe version of the album for. They're all poppy fluff, with no meaningful lyrical content. There's nothing that is out and out 'bad' and skippable, but there is nothing good on offer either.

13. Everybody's Girl

This is another track that leaked a few years ago.
Jennifer wants to know if her man is able to cope with her under the glare of the spotlight and still love her, knowing that she is viewed as belonging to the public?

14. Charge Me Up

Another RedOne track, yet another letdown.
Once again we get another dance + cute guy = sparks electro driven pop/dance number. Writing that sentance nearly sent me to sleep.

15. Take Care

[This track is supposed to interpolate and contain elements from both Rude Boy and I Like It, but I don't hear either]

Jenifer loves her man, she really loves and needs him. The lyrics are way too repetitive - it goes straight past catchy, to f***ing annoying, play-it-again-and-I-will-kill-you.

16. On The Floor (Ven a Bailar) [feat. Pitbull]

No prizes for guessing that this is the Spanish version of On The Floor.

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Glitterati edition
[Packaged in a 12×12 inch glittery box]
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LOVE? deluxe edition CD album
Autographed LOVE? cover lithograph and three additional lithographs
12" high quality colored vinyl with four On the Floor remixes
Three additional frame quality JLO lithographs
Jennifer Lopez Poster

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