Tuesday, March 08, 2011

HEAR THIS: Jennifer Lopez for the 'New Generation'

There are a few nouns in the music blogging dictionary that I very, very much dislike as they are the epitome of that which is subjective. The overuse of the word 'swagger' is one of them (I'm looking at you, 2010), and 'comeback' is another (blame it on the KPop, I suppose). However, in the case of one Ms. Jennifer Lopez, that word is very much appropriate.

Until very recently, the last time I spun a new J-Lo cut ad naseum unabashedly was during her glory days in the early 2000's, when she defined the words triple threat all the while insisting she was just "Jenny From the Block". Unexpectedly, she has crept back up on the unsuspecting public who thought her days of shakin' her big booty on the dance floor were over, all at the age of 41 years young. Young Divas of today, take note -- and bow down.

While her last "big" hit can be attributed to 2005's "Get Right", there is no denying that not much of Jennifer's material post-third album This Is Me...Then,  released in late 2002, has set the music world on fire. Looking back on it now, the shift was palpable, as her meteroric rise from film star to music mogul only properly began in 1999. Her mammoth sophomore album, J.Lo, (along with its subsequent Remixes! co-release), spawned no less than six hits (two of them #1 on the Hot 100), helped solidify the then-red hot career of Ja Rule (he was the early 2000's Flo Rida, when you think about it), and basically served as an unofficial soundtrack to my middle school years.

Just when it seemed like she could do no wrong, adapting to a handful of genres from pop, to dance, to hip hop, to latin, and back again, the press started to swing backward, and what started as a playful nickname turned into a inescapable moniker that continues to follow her to this day. Her love life started becoming more exciting to the media than her music, and by the time she released her fourth album, Rebirth (which gave us "Get Right" and not much else), mass interest had waned.

What with a very public failure of the purposed first single from her upcoming seventh album Love? (2009's "I'm throwin' on my Louboutins!"....Girrrrrl, in this economy?), including several high profile botched performances, her breakup with long-time label supporter Epic Records, and the underwhelming success of her "comeback" (there's that word again) film The Back-Up Plan, many were starting to say that perhaps Ms. Lopez's time in the poppy sun had faded to pleasant memory. Admittedly, I also had those thoughts.

Then came the end of 2010. Jenny wasted no time in doing damage control and proving to all the nay-sayers she was HBIC -- signing up with Island/Def Jam Records, snagging herself a role as judge on the tenth season of "American Idol" along with a handful of various commercial ad campaigns for the likes of L'Oreal and Venus, hopping into the studio with Lady Gaga's right-hand man RedOne, and creating the dance floor stomper that is "On the Floor".

Patterning it's melody line off of French group  Kaoma's 1989 hit "Lambada" (which in itself was patterned off a Brazilian dance hit from 1986), "On The Floor" is an instantaneous earworm. Clearly, RedOne was willing to give A-Material to the Latina Diva, as gone are the recycled cymbal crashes and coo-ing chants of "Red-One!" that swamped the airwaves in 2009/2010. Replacing the Ja Rule or LL Cool J of yesterday's collabs, she pairs herself with the latest rent-a-rapper of the moment (and a frequent RedOne collaborator) Pitbull. It harkens back one of her biggest (and most well-attributed) hits, "Waiting For Tonight", mixed with an unrelenting tour de force that is that hard-hitting back beat. The ball is officially back in her court.

While it should be said that "On The Floor" hardly should win points for lyrical originality (for obvious reasons), it does the job for Ms. Lopez in that it reminds us what she's so great at -- performing. Jennifer was never a Class A vocalist, but never has she claimed to be. With Jen, she's about making you want to shake your booty, forget your cares and just "dance the night away". "On The Floor" fits that bill very nice, as the star of the show is that beat, its counterpoint mixture with melody, and a unique infusion of hazy, exotic synth sounds that depending on your set of ears harken to many of the places shouted out during the refrain ("Brazil! Morocco! London to Ibiza! Straight to L.A.! New York! Vegas to Af-rica!" ...although I'd throw in Rome or Paris in there, too) . She's not re-inventing the wheel, she's reminding us that she may have been down but certainly not out.

The same can be said for RedOne, who, despite crafting some of the late 2000's biggest hits, has found himself somewhat pigeonheld for taking the easy way out. Rather than falling victim to the rising tide of backlash, he's come back just as hard with a sound that remains familiar but still fresh, beginning with Enrique Igelasias's "I Like It" (also featuring a famous sample), and somewhat recently with Nicole Scherzinger's "Poison".

"On The Floor" has only been officially released for a few weeks, and has debuted Top 10 on the Hot 100 (and is rising), has already gone Top 5 in several countries around the world, and is on target to continue to slay. In a music market that proclaimed early 2011 to be a war between Britney Spears and Lady Gaga, "On The Floor" beat out both cuts on the iTunes charts (proof that not only the song is popular, but people are willing to pay for it -- very key). Not only that, but the song it samples, "Lambada" by Kaoma, has raced up the World Digital Chart to #3, returning to the charts for the first time in over two decades per Billboard.

All that, and "American Idol" and endorsements and sponsorships galore from a woman who's last proper "hit" was six years ago? Yes, I certainly have no problem calling that a "comeback". Go on, girl.

1 comment:

John said...

I can't get enough of this track. You and I tend to be pretty much in sync on this type of thing, and I'm glad to hear you thought that "Get Right" was as amazing as I thought it was. Say what you want about Jennifer, but man, she knows a bangin' track when she hears it.

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