It wasn't too long ago that Jennifer Lopez's golden touch seemed to be losing its luster. Her 2007 album Brave failed to crack the Top 10, a feat her first four releases had no problem accomplishing. Add in a critically panned performance at the 2009 American Music Awards and a split from longtime label Epic Records, and the glory days of JLo's singing career looked as if they might be in her rearview mirror.
Then the 40-year-old entertainer was tapped by a little show called … what was it? Oh, right: American Idol. After Idol's producers added Lopez to the judging roster for the 2011 run, everything changed. Bolstered by new visibility, a new label and collaborations with some of the music scene's heaviest hitters (including guest appearances from Lil Wayne and Pitbull, and a song written by Lady Gaga), JLo can now claim another Top 10 album and a No. 3 track (" On the Floor").
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Despite the fact that she's been married to Marc Anthony since 2004, Lopez plays the part of a frustrated woman longing for romantic permanence and commitment on "(What Is) Love?" She sings, "I wanna be somebody's girl/Would you show me the way?/ … What is love?/Somebody show me." That song also chronicles multiple romantic miscues and expresses JLo's regrets about having "hooked up with some real flakes." "One Love" gets specific about some of those failures, after which she wonders, "Is [it] too much to ask/For a real love, something that will last?"
More befitting of her real life at present, an upbeat Lopez assures her man of her absolute faithfulness ("I'll be your protector, I'll never forget ya/I'll be your anything, everything") and insists that together their love could "Run the World." One of the catchiest tracks on the album, "Until It Beats No More" credits a loving man with resuscitating her broken heart: "I was down for the count/ … And then you came/ … You healed me with your patience/ … I'll never stop loving you/'Cause I'm alive/I can breathe/I can feel, I believe/ … And it's all because of you."
Lopez's first Top 10 hit in eight years, the Britney-esque dance track "On the Floor" celebrates drinking ("put your drinks up") and hard partying ("If you're a party freak then step on the floor"). It includes a barely bleeped s-word. Likewise, Lil Wayne's contribution on "I'm Into You" includes a partially censored s-word in a scatological context and a line describing an attractive woman that some will hear as a crude sexual allusion. "Good Hit" finds Lopez strutting her stuff, tempting a guy to "push up on me" as she asks, "Don't you want me to have your babies?" "I'm Into You" continues a similarly sexy strut. And the Lady Gaga-penned "Hypnotico" tells men, "Love me for my body/I'm original sexy." When JLo adds, "Hungry for some yum-yum/Gonna get me some-some," it's no mystery what she's talking about.
On "Starting Over," Lopez tries to rationalize staying in a relationship with an unfaithful, deceitful partner ("He's all right/He's all wrong/He's a playa/He's a dog/ … It can't hurt if I don't know/All his secrets, all his lies/I just keep pushing 'em out my mind"). Another questionable relationship on "Invading My Mind" overwhelms her defenses ("I'm defenseless, it penetrates my walls/ … This feeling's invaded my mind/ .. It's takin' me down/And getting me high/It brings every fantasy to life"). "Papi" encourages women to let their men objectify them on the dance floor ("Move your body, move your body/Dance for your papi"). Bling and sexy photos consume the liner notes. (We've cropped the album cover for this review.)
Love? is a hit-or-miss album … in more than one way. On a purely musical level, it's a mixture of thumping dance tracks, light ballads and electro-pop as Lopez tries to cover all her stylistic bases. Several tracks are, admittedly, pretty infectious. But on the whole, the album's vibe feels dated and a little too familiar. Or as L.A. Times music reviewer Mikael Wood writes, "It's a limp, personality-free dance-pop collection with plenty of A-list collaborations."
More importantly, however, is how the album also hits, then misses when it comes to content. As might be expected from its title, love is the ostensible theme. And even though some of the songs do speak to the joy and commitment of true love, just as often we get lyrics that glorify a different kind of "love"—the grinding and gyrating kind that takes place on the dance floor.