On May 19, Jennifer Lopez was named an Icon. The 2014 Billboard Music Awards committee gifted her with a gold trophy and the hefty title that’s only been given to a short list including Stevie Wonder and Prince. In her defense, J. Lo is on album number 10 in the span of a 14-year music career. Her booty is still as voluptuous as in her Fly Girl days. People who have met her in-person use words like “sweetheart” and “humble” and yet she’s pocketed $52 million this year alone by doing everything she pleases. But as she said in the thank-you speech for her aforementioned honor, “Music has always been my first love”—which wasn’t only blatant promo for her current single, also titled “First Love,” but a nod to her ever-abundant catalog.
The 44-year-old multi-hyphenate (she is a fashion designer, TV producer, fragrance connoisseur and mom) has been around the block a few times but still remains the cool (and smokin’ hot) chick on A.K.A. She taps friends old and new for features, from Pitbull and Nas to French Montana, T.I. and Iggy Azalea, all members of rap’s in-crowd. She also recruits Diplo, DJ Mustard, Detail and Max Martin for updated sounds that easily glide into today’s hip-pop rotations.
For the most part, J. Lo has been able to salsa between genres because of her Latina roots, Bronx upbringing and mainstream appeal (Sophia Vergara’s got it too). She can go from rocking a bowl cut and white, tight pants on the Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon one night and then shake what her momma gave her as the opening performer at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. This go ’round, the Jenny persona doesn’t let up with songs like “Same Girl” and “A.K.A.” Sure, her vocals may not be the type to win American Idol, on which she’s currently a judge, but she lets her full voice shine on lovey-dovey tunes like “Never Satisfied” and the Chris Brown-penned “Emotions.” She does her own backup vocals. While some verses only show the surface of her inner psych, there’s some glimpse into her personal life on songs like “Troubeaux,” which lusts for a man with a bald head and tattoos (probably her now ex, Casper Smart). Still, it’s not so much about the technique or the lyrical content that has stamped the Puerto Rican star into an American household name, it’s the delivery.
In the video for “I Luh Ya Papi,” a Max Martin-produced bae anthem that’s sticky to the ears, she rocks that green Versace dress from her Puff-dating days as a romper and does the Nae Nae, which is essentially a line dance for the millennials. In the teaser for “Booty,” she shakes her cake like it’s all of our birthdays in short shorts and platform sneakers. Even her desert romp in “First Love” could get both panties and boxers wet. This, all from the singer who made an album dedicated entirely to Ben Affleck on This Was Me…Then and outlined her relationship no-no’s to Diddy by stripping her bling in “Love Don’t Cost A Thing.”
While you (sadly) won’t find the likes of the Gen-Y classics “I’m Real” or “Feelin’ So Good” on this album, you won’t be mad at tracks like the aforementioned “Troubeaux,” which features her “I’ma Be Alright” partner, Nas, for its old-school feel. “Acting Like That” will be a business ladies’ anthem while “Booty” is a shoe-in for the next commercial record to get the clubs jumpin, jumpin. “Tens” is for J. Lo what “Work, Bitch” is for Britney Spears, a sing-talk song with an infectious beat that will have Glamazons and Queens doing the bend and snap, honey.
This isn’t J. Lo’s attempt to make conceptual albums like her chart contemporaries Beyoncé and Mariah Carey, though Lopez has said the project was inspired by her ex-husband Marc Anthony. It’s audible proof that she’s living la vida loca and loving it. Her serial dating has never really affected her hustle, just the context. A.K.A. can be treated like one of J. Lo’s rom-coms: You feel guilty for enjoying it but then realize that the soundtrack to her life eventually becomes yours. —Adelle Platon (@adelleplaton)