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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 October 2018

Album review: Jennifer Lopez – A.K.A.

A.K.A. is business as usual for Jennifer Lopez.
The most heartfelt song in JLo’s A.K.A. is the ballad Let It Be Me. Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images / AFP
The most heartfelt song in JLo’s A.K.A. is the ballad Let It Be Me. Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images / AFP

A.K.A.

Jennifer Lopez

(Capitol)

2 Stars

Jennifer Lopez is proof that personality goes a long way. She is a successful singer with a paper-thin voice and an actress who relies more heavily on charm than chops.

Despite that, her 25-year entertainment career continues to rise as she manages that deft balance between being a diva and our Jenny from the Block.

But as with all endeavours, when trying to be something for everyone, eventually something’s got to give. In Lopez’s case it’s her music: once bursting with personality and sass, it’s now sliding increasingly towards irrelevance.

Her eighth release, A.K.A., is another crowd-pleaser, with all the negative connotations that implies. There are bright sparks, but not enough to call A.K.A. a comeback, or even a progression. It’s just another set of songs.

It begins with the title track, a stagnant dance number lacking that essential euphoric release. The dearth of energy continues with JLo’s hollow threats: “I don’t think you want me to explode/It’s a countdown,” and the rapper T I’s lazy couplets.

Things immediately get better with the follow-up First Love – the primary reason being the super-producer Max Martin. He channels his 1990s heyday with a sweet, summery sound full of synths and live drums. Lopez accepts the gift and turns on the charm to deliver her best single in ages.

Then it gets all murky with sonic twists and turns, more akin to listening to an iPod shuffle than an intriguing track-list.

The Latin-tinged, bouncy lead single I Luh Ya Papi (featuring the rapper French Montana) is actually quite catchy if you manage to ignore that grating chorus.

Acting Like That is a rapid mood changer, with its sparse sonic set-up. The only problem is it sounds like an Iggy Azalea track featuring JLo than the other way around, such is the forceful performance by the rapper starlet.

Emotions, co-written by Chris Brown, alarmingly turns heads. That shrill chorus betrays instead of complements Lopez’s weak vocals.

She returns to safe ground with the closing track Booty; a club stomper and potential hit courtesy of its heavy percussion and Oriental keyboard riff. It also features a rap by Pitbull, today’s sonic gold ticket to getting played in the clubs and radio.

Ironically, A.K.A.’s best track is the one with the least pretension.

Placed in the middle, among the burbling repetition of So Good and the moody Worry No More (featuring Rick Ross), is the touching ballad Let It Be Me.

Perhaps referring to her divorce from fellow singer Marc Anthony, Lopez bears her pain as she honours the relationship: “And if right comes, but you choose left/I will be the first to forgive.”

It is here that Lopez drops the diva mask and truly connects, something lacking in her music for a decade.

sasaeed@thenational.ae