Favorites: 1st Love, Worry No More, Troubeaux, Same Girl
Dislikes: Emotions, Booty
Overall: Jenny gives a happy medium between the block and the techno club.
Jennifer Lopez gives us everything we like her for on her 8th album, A.K.A.; or at least what I like her for, which is her effortless, street and sweet blend of hip-hop, R&B and pop. EDM.Lo was not the J.Lo for me. Although A.K.A. definitely carries the sounds of the dubstep and dance genres, it rests on an urban bed thick enough for Lopez’s Bronx roots to show through. Not surprisingly, things go horridly wrong when Lopez attempts to drive out of her lane into that of Celine Dion and tries to pull off the pop pseudo-ballads, “Never Satisfied,” “Emotions” and “Let it Be Me.” The worst of this set is “Emotions.” I’ve never heard an artist highlight their vocal weaknesses so boldly before. We all know J.Lo’s range is limited and her voice is thin. When she attempts to belt into “someone took my emotions,” it’s piercing and almost screechy and she falls flat when she trips into “don’t forgive me, I didn’t ask.” It’s embarrassing and I’m surprised that it was recorded and mastered like that. “Be Me” is vocally easier on the ears, but the performance is still unpleasant enough to taint the beautiful Latin-styled music. “Emotions” and “Be Me” would be great sung by someone else. Fortunately, the vocally-challenged trio is spread out, so it doesn’t ruin the flow of the album.
The content is accessible, including sassy kiss-offs, shake-offs and “I love my guy from around the way” cuts. “Bad-boy” songs commonly receive an apathetic response from me, but there’s a sadness and discontentment in “Worry No More” that makes me more attracted to it and I always enjoy when 1960’s folk and jazz get remixed into a hip-hop track: “Troubeaux” samples Jefferson Airplane’s “Today, which was re-spun by Tom Scott. Need a new vogue song for the summer? “TENS,” featuring Jack Mizrahi, is a ball of fun and a nod to the drag-ball culture of New York, as chronicled in the documentary, Paris is Burning. Rest in peace Dorian Corey, Octavia St. Laurent, Pepper LaBeija, Angie Xtravaganza, Willie Ninja and all others. The lyrics are sometimes too absurdly elementary (like “I feel good ‘cause I don’t feel bad” on “Emotions”) and even though part of J.Lo’s appeal is that she eludes marks of age (she’ll be 45 soon) with eternal hipness, the childishness of “Booty,” among others, is too much too take.
Jennifer Lopez is a perfect example of how expectation influences how we react to music. Was I expecting the vocals of a Broadway champ? Nope. Was I expecting lyrics the musical equivalent of Shakespeare? Definitely not. Something heartfelt or personal? Maybe a little; she has gone through a divorce. I got passionate from her though; she was convincingly heated on “A.K.A,” “Acting Like That” and “So Good.” What I was expecting, or at least what I wanted, was for Jenny to take me down the block and give me some of the same feel-good vibes I had when the “Ain’t it Funny” Murder remix, “All I Have,” “Get Right” and “Feeling So Good (no pun intended)” came out. I got closer to it with A.K.A. than I have in almost a decade, so I’m fine. J-to-tha-L-O, hello!