Jennifer Lopez: LOVE? (Album Review)

When Jennifer Lopez‘s “Louboutins”–an ode to the couture cobbler–was released to a less-than-tepid response in the last week of 2009, Lopez seemingly began to struggle to find her footing in the market (excuse the pun), eventually taking a leave from her longtime label Epic Records in 2010.

Yet only weeks after the announcement made the rounds, J-Lo was already busy inking a new record deal with Island Def Jam and preparing to fulfill her duties as a full-time judge on the tenth season of American Idol.

Only one year later, Lopez suddenly came roaring back onto the charts in the beginning of 2011 with the release of her first actual single from Love?: “On The Floor (feat. Pitbull),” a surprise smash hit for the singer that skyrocketed to #1 in over 19 countries (and counting!)

Now–after a few false starts, a label switch, and the birth of her twins Max and Emme comes LOVE?, the long awaited, oft-delayed seventh studio album by Jennifer Lopez, released on April 29.

Recorded with a smattering of today’s most in demand (read: expensive) producers, from RedOne to StarGate and The-Dream, much of LOVE? is an exercise in co-opting the sounds of today’s greatest radio hits.

“On The Floor,” Lopez’s unbelievably successful lead single, borrows from the Mediterranean breeze of Edward Maya‘s “Stereo Love,” and even more heavily from the RedOne-produced beats of Kat DeLuna‘s miserably unsuccessful 2010 effort, Inside Out.

Her current single, the Caribbean-tinged mid-tempo “I’m Into You (feat. Lil Wayne)” cribs from Rihanna‘s “What’s My Name?” while the Lady Gaga-penned electro bangers “Invading My Mind” and “Hypnotico” evoke–well, The Fame-era Gaga. (In fact, it’d be nice if the pop starlet incorporated some of the catchy, breezier melodies she lent to Lopez in her own work lately!)

Still, Lopez is no style-biter: Just as with the rest of her records, LOVE? brings Lopez into the next era in sound without falling prey to mere imitation–not quite a trailblazer, not yet an also-ran. In fact, the album’s brightest moments tend to bring to mind some of Lopez’s earlier work.

“Papi,” a scorching, pulsating up-tempo club jam evokes all the green lasers and smoke machines of her finest moment (“Waiting for Tonight”), allowing for Lopez’s spicy side to shine through on top of a storming club thump and an almighty call to action: “Move your body, move your body…dance for your papi!” This, coupled with the delicious spoken-word breakdown in Spanish above grinding beats–cements “Papi” as one of the album’s finest moments.

Another highlight, “(What Is) Love?”, showcases the more mid-tempo, introspective This Is Me…Then side of La Lopez. Penned by MuuMuse’s favorite rising starlet Wynter Gordon, the song’s soul-searching lyricism finds our protagonist desperately fighting for love–a theme that more or less successfully weaves its way throughout the entire record. “I been alone for the past three years on Valentine’s Day / Christmas is no exception, birthdays, no naughty presents,” Lopez laments.

Granted, the song’s lyrics don’t quite sync with Lopez’s happy romance with husband Marc Anthony and the birth of their beautiful twins, Max and Emme–but hey, I’m all for storytelling in popular song.

Delving into her J-Lo roots, Lopez brings her bossiest with “Good Hit”–a brash, sassy electro stinger that allows an extra Auto-Tuned Lopez to brag about her…assets: “I got that good hit. Don’t you wish I was your boo?” she taunts above the song’s booty-popping stomp.

It’s a real stilettos-and-hair flips moment for the Latina diva–one of which Love? certainly could have used more. In fact, the album only falters when Lopez kicks back with a few snoozier mid-tempos, including “Run The World,” “One Love” and “Until It Beats No More,” a somewhat soggy, piano-led number that plays like a dated response to R. Kelly‘s “I Believe I Can Fly.”

In the end, LOVE? is a listenable, breezy collection of pop tunes, and her most solid collection since 2001’s J. Lo. While there’s nothing revolutionary to be found inside the album’s dance-pop laced contents, there’s nothing less than enjoyable either.

So don’t fret, J-Lo–you can drop the question mark. It’s love, indeed.

LOVE? was released on April 29. (iTunes)

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