There Goes the Block

By: Marcelo Báez

“This is not the girl you used to know,” sings Jennifer Lopez on “A.K.A.,” the opening track of her new album. I don’t even need to see it: listening to the booming dance track, I can picture J. Lo waving her sassy finger at me while she puckers her lips—much like the teenage hood rats who congregate outside the F train just around the corner from my apartment. It’s funny when they do it because, well, they’re bratty teenagers. But J. Lo is a full-grown woman with soon-to-be-teenagers of her own, so there’s a strange, awkward discrepancy.

That same discrepancy can be seen on the record’s cover, which shows a glowing, pore-less J. Lo strapped in a harness and squeezed into a latex skirt. She’s giving the audience one serious dominatrix look, but it looks like a fragrance ad from 1999. I’m calling it failed fierceness.

Lopez isn’t the only mainstream Latina singer who’s been afflicted with the cool-mom-who-makes-music-for-da-club syndrome, but it seems especially pronounced in her. For example, in “I Luh Ya Papi,” the first single, hearing Jennifer, a wealthy woman who’s been on Forbes lists and in way too many cheesy romantic comedies, say “hawl-awup” (hold up) in a hood-like accent feels as real as Milli Vanilli’s music career.

There goes Jenny, the block and the entire neighborhood.

Although, to be fair, urban dance music, along with the occasional *cough* terrible *cough* ballad, have always been Jennifer’s bread and butter. And speaking of ballads, homegirl finally sings some truth in “Emotions,” a song with great, awful—awfulsome?—lyrics (“Someone took my emotions / I feel good ’cause I don’t feel bad”).

Judging by your singing, Jenni, there’s definitely no emotions there.

A.K.A. wouldn’t be an urban dance record if it didn’t have collaborations, and that’s why Iggy Azalea (“Acting Like That”), French Montana (“I Luh Ya Papi”), Rick Ross (“Worry No More”) and, of course, Pitbull (“Booty”) can be heard yelping next to the emotionless institution that is Jennifer Lopez. Production by the likes of Max Martin and Chris Brown is, of course, flawless and modern. In fact, the quality of the production will probably trick most listeners into believing that Jennifer really does have some sort of musical talent.

Is the Jennifer from A.K.A a completely different person and not the girl we “used to know”? Well, let’s see: mildly catchy dance songs, terrible ballads, silly art—naw, seems like run-of-the-mill J. Lo to me.

LOGISTICS: A.K.A. by Jennifer Lopez, available now

Marcelo Baéz is a writer, DJ, and musician based in NYC. When he's not producing "Rico Suave" parties, he releases music under P3CULIAR.