Let’s get the first thing out of the way when reviewing Jennifer Lopez’s greatest hits record: yes, she’s not the greatest vocalist. No one will confuse her with Aretha Franklin. Still, when hooked up with the right team of producers and paired with the right rapper-of-the moment, Lopez has still had some surprisingly listenable list of hits.
Lopez’s music career seemed to be just one aspect of the empire that became J.Lo – you know what I mean – the movies, the music, American Idol, the marriage to Marc Anthony, the perfume. That would imply that her music was somehow less, and while this is dance-pop at its most serviceable, if not ordinary, there are some high moments of pop music on the album.
Her best hit is included – “Waiting for Tonight” – it’s her one moment that rivals Janet Jackson, Madonna or Kylie Minogue at their best. The song epitomizes dance music, with its insanely-catchy chorus; the lyrics don’t mean anything, and Lopez purrs them seductively and the song reaches that wonderful climax that the best post-disco dance music have – the crescendo, that causes dancers in a club to hop along with the beat mindlessly.
Nothing reaches the joyous abandon of “Waiting for Tonight” but there are other some good, well-crafted songs. “If You Had My Love” is great – her first hit record, with some dated, late 1990s production, with a shuffling beat and synthetic strings. The production is top-notch – ironically, it’s the song that confirmed most suspicions of Lopez’s meager vocal chords. “Do It Well” didn’t do very well on the pop charts, but is a typically loud, garish, shiny pop number that masterfully hides Lopez’s thin voice.
As decent-to-good-to-rarely-great as the song list, there are some duds mixed in – most notably the ridiculous “Jenny from the Block” which is a song that is so self-referential, it borders on self-parody. Trying to convince viewers, she’s just a regular diva next door, she insists that despite the trappings of fame and obscene wealth, she’s just “Jenny from the block.” “Love Don’t Cost a Thing” is another song where we’re supposed to participate in this fiction that Jennifer Lopez isn’t the human embodiment of jewels, diamonds and millions of dollars. Instead, she’s trilling over the busy, thick, glossy beats and sounds that her love is for free and money doesn’t impress her…huh, really…
The new songs feel a bit tacked on. It’s interesting because I’m not sure if there’s much of a future for Jennifer Lopez, pop star. She can still be an actress – in fact, despite being cast in some of the worst star vehicles in Hollywood history, she’s still an engaging presence on-screen. On vinyl, she’s less impressive – her voice is a whiny little trill that’ll make Kylie sound like Maria Callas. But really, she’s just a spokesmodel for her music – and when judging in those restricted parameters, she does herself proud.