Given the last couple entries were a bit somber due to the unfortunate deaths of two music legends; I wanted to celebrate something this week. National Hispanic Heritage Month is Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, so let’s dive into the music of one of the best-selling artists of all time.
Jennifer Lynn Lopez was born July 24th of 1969. While born in the Bronx borough of New York City, her parents were born in Puerto Rico and moved to the states as children. Dad worked night shift at an insurance company before becoming a computer technician. Eventually they saved up enough money to buy a two-story home—a big deal for the fairly poor family.
At age five, Jennifer began taking singing and dancing lessons. She was so good that at age seven she toured New York with other dancers from her school. Mom and dad stressed the importance of having a strong work ethic and learning to speak English. Her parents also wanted the kids involved in extracurriculars to keep them out of trouble. Jennifer ended up running track at a national level, excelling athletically more so than academically. Her senior year in high school, she was cast in a small role in a low-budget film, which led to her wanting to become a famous movie star. Her parents felt that dream was stupid and Lopez moved out.
Dabbling in musicals, Lopez traveled the world performing. Unhappy with her roles, she returned to the states as a dancer. She’d perform for teen pop act New Kids on the Block and as a “fly girl” on the television program In Living Color. It was acting however where she’d make her breakthrough. Performing in smaller roles in higher budget movies, she got her big break in Selena in 1997. Using that platform, she’d release her debut album in 1999 to commercial success. Today I’m listening to the follow-up—her sophomore album simply titled J.Lo, which was released in January of 2001.
The album was titled such as a tribute to fans who had given her that nickname. She also dove into more personal subject matters on the album, with themes of relationships and empowerment. Unquestionably a pop album, there are also overall tones of R&B, Latin pop and dance music. It would debut at #1 on the Billboard 200 the same week as her film The Wedding Planner opened at number one in the domestic box office. The album is 4x platinum in the U.S. alone, selling close to 12 million total worldwide.
Critically, the album was mixed. Some really enjoyed the hip-hop undertone with Latin flavor sprinkled in; others criticized the manufactured pop nature of some of the songs and thought it sounded too generic. Regardless of overall opinions, no one would question Lopez’s voice and talent. I think it simply comes down to what you want out of your music. Is this going on the Mount Rushmore of classic/iconic records? Probably not. But is it something really catchy that gets your toes tapping? Of course. It can very easily get you through an hour long car ride or help push you through the finishing touches on your spreadsheet in the office. For me, the Latin influence is what I enjoy most. The backing band on a few tracks is a refreshing breakup of otherwise a straight pop/dance album.
In her career, Lopez has sold nearly 100 million albums worldwide, in addition to starring in countless box office smashes and television programs. She’s credited with breaking racial barriers for fellow Hispanic people in the entertainment industry. In 2012, Forbes suggested Lopez “may be the most powerful entertainer on the planet”—very high praise. Countless other accolades aside, give this a listen today. Her love may not cost a thing, but this will set you back $6.99, a small price to pay for today’s celebration.
Top 3 Tracks: