Usually satisfying and only occasionally disappointing, a new Jennifer Lopez record is worth cheering for. In this pop drought―over a decade Stateside if you’ve got discerning taste―Lopez is one of the last American pop institutions that represents the genre in its natural splendor.
However, when Lopez left the stale taste of Love? (2011) lingering, it seemed she was concerned with competing versus creating. With her eighth LP A.K.A., Lopez still wants to stand her ground with these new girls and offer a few treats too.
The sound arc of A.K.A. is a cool veneer of urban-pop that Lopez has (mostly) perfected. In fact, the album goes down as smooth as Brave (2007), though nothing here approaches its genius.
There are glimpses into what can only be called “classic Jennifer Lopez,” but Lopez keeps the music contemporary and formatted to her personality. The riding cuts (“A.K.A.,” “Acting Like That”) and the previously mentioned classics (“First Love,” “Troubeaux”) are here; a few ballads fill out the remainder of A.K.A. The latter includes the vintage romance of “Let It Be Me” that orbits the atmosphere of Como Ama una Mujer (2007) and the synthy-soap of “So Good”. Both cuts have Lopez in good voice and demonstrate that with 15 years under her belt, Lopez can give a song her own unique read.
What’s really interesting is hearing Lopez tap into her campier side with A.K.A.; “I Luh Ya Papi” (the erroneous lead single), “Booty” and “Tens” are all delectably tongue-in-cheek―only “Booty” flatlines. If one thought Lopez couldn’t conquer the fluffy entries of “Good Hit” and “Papi” from Love?, the summer street sass of “I Luh Ya Papi” and the flashy “Tens” make a strong case for Lopez just wanting to let her hair down.
Those mentioned songs also can be counted among the nine features that dot A.K.A., depending on the edition purchased. While Nas delivers a dashing verse on the punchy “Troubeaux,” Pitbull’s appearance on “Booty” will make Lopez listeners groan. Majority of these collaborations don’t feel organic and while they don’t obstruct Lopez, she is capable of handling the mass of the material herself.
Directed By: Anthony Mandler
There are unequivocal misses, such as the droning “Worry No More” and “Same Girl” that drain the energy of the record’s better sides. In all, A.K.A.’s bold title only grazes the surface of Lopez’s true versatility, but it presents a more coherent offering than Love? did. One wishes Lopez could settle on a persona and flesh it out sonically, but Lopez supplies some respite from the lesser beings roaming the pop landscape today. Ranking: Average
[Editor’s Note: A.K.A. is available digitally & physically in a variety of formats; the album reviewed here was the deluxe version. For current information on Jennifer Lopez, visit her official website.-QH]