Jennifer Lopez has long been a jack-of-all-trades, excelling in acting rolls, as an on-stage entertainer and in her assorted business ventures. “A.K.A.” marks the eighth studio album for the songstress, and first with Capitol Records. An eclectic mix of sounds ring throughout the set as she opts for a mix of urban tilting songs, pop ballads, and dance inducing knockouts. Some tunes like “Same Girl” sound like they could have been placed on earlier J.Lo albums while tracks like “Acting Like That” featuring Iggy Azalea are an evident attempt to pursue a current sound.
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Featured rappers are abundant. Iggy, T.I., Rick Ross, and Nas are among the emcee’s that provide an edge to the singer’s latest effort. Pitbull offers his know-how on “Booty,” a song that is sure to heat up the clubs this summer. With some songs written by Chris Brown and contributions by Sia, pop music titans congeal on this collaborative effort, to showcase Lopez’s boisterous expertise in commercial pop. With some hits and misses, “A.K.A.” journeys through some predictable refrains with a handful of prospective triumphs.
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"A.K.A." Feat. T.I.
J.Lo starts the set with its hard-hitting title track. The Roccstar-produced, bass heavy banger is an unexpected opener. A declaration of self-identity and a presumed ex’s inability to realize what they had before it was too late, the pre-chorus scolds, “It took too long to find out what you want right now/ I’m too gone to stay around/ switching up my style.” The drop into T.I.’s verse temporarily transforms the song into a low-key hip hop feel before leading the listener back into the in-your-face chorus.
The song recently announced as “A.K.A’s” second official single delivers the album’s pop peak. Its fun and free feel was produced by none other than pop music heavyweight Max Martin, who lives up to his legacy, creating a sound reminiscent of past summertime hits. Lopez exults “I wish you were my first love, cuz if you were first, baby there would have been no second, third, or fourth love.” The cheeriness evokes a nostalgic air that will resonate with true J.Lo fans.
“I’m never satisfied/ honey my appetite is keeping me up at night/ I’m going crazy for more of your love,” Lopez pleads with a partner for everlasting affection. Her voice is perhaps best showcased on this track, soaring through the tender and captivating love song. The mid-tempo tune builds into an anthem as it soars into a vast power-ballad.
“I Luh You Papi”
The feisty lead single has already amassed over 41 million views on its official music video online and has reached No. 77 on Billboard’s Hot 100 on April 5. The clip sees Lopez cheekily turn the table on the yacht riding, womanizing perception of some of her male musical peers. This track serves to let you fiercely unleash your inner sass.
“Acting Like That” Feat. Iggy Azalea
The album’s fifth track provides a slow and mesmerizing hip-hop detour around its glossier pop-leaning precursors. It bounces in an urban groove that’s very 2014, telling of a relationship on the rocks and warning of its demise. “Don’t let the tables turn/ don’t let the bridges burn/ been down for you don’t get it confused/ boy you could lose your turn.” Iggy’s verse sits well on the tranquil beat, complimenting Lopez’s somewhat somber performance.
Written by Chantal Kreviazuk and Chris Brown, “Emotions” is neither the high or low point of the set. A shrilly chorus suggests a distressing heartbreak, “Someone took my emotions/ I feel good cuz I don’t feel bad.” The verses read as a passionate dear John letter, “All I ever wanted was your time/ right now I don’t’ even have the patience/ tired of waiting for you.”
The song, a look back at a failed relationship, lists the ways she has persevered. A repetitive chorus croons “I’m still so good over you.” The bridge departs briefly from its mid-tempo electronic beats, conjuring phrasing reminiscent of a Jhene Aiko track. She proves she doesn’t need the accompaniment of a man to endure, “I’m so done with pleasing you/ I’m so over needing you, all this space just gave me room so I could fly.”
“Let It Be Me”
The singer strips the production down on this melancholic string-backed ballad. She swoons “Let it be me that you think of when everything tells you to give it up, let it be me that will anchor your soul.” as the song culminates into a commanding cry.
“Worry No More” Feat. Rick Ross
Lopez’s gloomy vocals echo her sentiments on the reverb-filled down-tempo track: “Do anything that you can to make me feel so protected/ I don’t wanna worry no more.” Intelligible background whispers creep in and out, adding to a sonic haziness. Ross lends his skills with ease, rapping, “the feeling that you give me is a coke rush/ addicted to fast money/ white Lamborghini, my name ring bells/ authorities wanna see me.” Vocal effects add a robotic element throughout this steady and hypnotic daze.
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“Booty” Feat. Pitbull
The combination of Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull on a song produced by Diplo and written by Chris Brown yields a massive dance record. The male collaborators on the track are no rookies in publicly professing their appreciation for the derriere, and Lopez’s infamous backside is no doubt the catalyst for the track’s creation. The potential hit begs for a dance troop and some serious choreography.
“Tens” Feat. Jack Mizrahi
This is “A.K.A.’s” total wild card song with a blatantly apparent Britney-inspired vocal flow. The imagery is that of a catwalk at a fashion show. At one point Lopez is bluntly shouting out names of designer brands. As if part of a fierce walk-off, Lopez invokes the spirit of Madonna’s talk-rap in “Vogue” before shamelessly demanding the attention of the crowd (“Look at me, look at me/ look at me, bitch”). She closes asking “I turnt it, right?” The answer is still up for debate.
"Trobeaux" Feat. Nas
Lopez recognizes the impending complications of a troublesome romance on this return to the set’s more urban side. “The funny thing about you,” she starts, “You got me doing things I wouldn’t do/ you ain’t no ordinary boy.” A ceaseless horn riff cuts in throughout the track and clashes a bit with the solid old school beat. Nas naturally shines over spacious drums before sliding back into Lopez’s worrisome oohs and ahs.
"Expertease" (Ready Set Go)
A brazen attempt to show her partner what she’s good at, “Expertease” offers a sassy play on words: “Let me show my expertise/ I’m an expert tease.” The light and airy pop track doesn’t take itself too seriously. Bright keys swirl all through the song, co-written by Sia, that gives a sense of Jojo circa 2006.
"Same Girl" Feat. French Montana
Lopez and French Montana join forces to close out “A.K.A.” The message of “Same Girl” is that of “Jenny From the Block,” with a video to match. The clip, released at the end of January, has accumulated nearly 11 million views and shows Lopez walking through the streets of New York, interacting with fans along the way. An orchestral string section supports the tone of this classic J.Lo closer.
For more online go to Billboard.com