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Jennifer Lopez - ''This Is Me... Then''
(Thursday December 5, 2002 6:38 PM )

Released on 25/11/2002
Label: Epic

Another month, another J-Lo album, another husband, another sack of precious stones is hauled into the safe. It's been pretty much an album a year from the prodigiously butted one ever since she decided to make the flip from rising film star to singing megastar. The kind of productivity that gives Ian Brown something to mull over. In between she finds time to make films. We have much to thank La Lopez for, not the least is the shattering of the stigma attached to generous female curves. Few, however, will be grateful for her latest big screen offering, 'Enough'.

With this sort of work rate it would be fair to expect this latest dispatch to be something of a patchy affair, especially given that the best that could be mustered for a single is the agonising 'Jenny From The Block'. This is a track so insulting in its cynical appropriation of hip-hop culture that you almost fail to notice that lyric: "Used to have a little / Now I've got a lot / I'm still Jenny from the block."

If we drop the cynicism for a moment though, this album presents a decent case to suggest that J-Lo the famously aloof diva, she of the world's most outrageous riders, is head-over-heels in love. This, it's safe to assume, is not the kind of love that humbles. But it is the sort that contributes to the vitality of much of this album.

The far superior single release, 'It's Gonna Be Alright' remains the standout with its lazily accomplished contributions from Nas and his mates the Trackmasters. But there are other winners here, most notably the opening double-act of 'Still' (surely a future single) and 'Loving You' (another single, probably). On these excellent updated disco-era soul numbers Lopez is taking a next step, emerging from behind the protective wall of latino novelty and dazzling cyber-funk productions. The sounds are unfashionably soft-edged, rich Rhodes chords and flutes with nary a trace of Jamaican dancehall rhythms or electro beats.

Lopez' voice frequently sounds a trifle thin accompanied by the sort of sounds that we're better used to hearing behind a Creative Source or Gwen McRrae vocal but the honeyed backing massages any real concerns from your mind. It remains to be seen what her present blissed-out state might do for J-Lo's on-set antics but here it has helped add more than a glimmer of humanity to this Latino Corporation. Ben Affleck is no doubt rather happy with himself.

    by James Poletti

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