So after a short break whilst on the American Idol panel, Jennifer Lopez returns with a new album boasting that she is still the same girl from the block that we once knew and loved. She’s said in recent interviews that this album will feature more R&B than her previous albums which were mostly produced by Red One and has enlisted the help of some rappers aside from Pitbull such as French Montana, Iggy Azalea and even Nas. This is a risky move from J-Lo since dance hits such as On The Floor and Follow The Leader put her back on the map. So will this album be able to deliver the nostalgia of some of her arguably most iconic singles from the start of her career? Let’s hope so.
A.K.A (Feat T.I)
A few seconds into this track you begin to think that J-Lo lied to you when she said she’d take it back to R&B since the synthesiser within the track is dance. In addition to this, the first lyric states that “this is not the same girl you knew” which is a complete contradiction to the Same Girl promotion. It’s a good intro for the album because the tempo is not too fast nor too slow which is a good representation of the album as a whole. Jennifer Lopez also sings confidently that she’s “switching up her style” presumably from EDM to R&B/Pop. The lyrics are a little generic and simple and make you feel as if the song could have been cut down to one minute thirty seconds literally just as an intro. Overall, it’s a good listen.
This song is made for the summer radio however it does sound a little bit dated. It’s not the catchiest song and lacks an identity to separate J-Lo from any other artist on the radio. It’s understandable why they’d make this a first single due to its radio friendly sound but it doesn’t make her stand out in anyway and doesn’t make me believe she’s the same girl she spoke about. The song is basically about wishing the person she’s currently in love with was the first person to come into her life so she wouldn’t have had to have so many failed romances. Overall, it’s listenable but rather disposable.
This song is an unexpected ballad. The problem here is that a ballad normally features either a great vocalist or great lyrics. Never Satisfied is unfortunately distant from both. This is because the lyrics are very cliché and have been used in almost every generic ballad. “One taste is never enough… I’m thinking about your sweet love all of the time” these lyrics don’t make J-Lo or the track stand out in any way. Overall, this song doesn’t hit as much as it should because there’s been better songs about needing somebody. Nevertheless, it’s probably the first track on the album that represents a different style.
I Luh Ya Papi (Feat French Montana)
On a first listen, this song can come across as quite uninspiring and monotonous. But the hook is rather catchy and it’s surprising that it didn’t perform better in the charts since it’s not much different to other songs in the mainstream. The verses are what makes the song uninteresting, yet again the lyrics aren’t captivating as she talks about how hot she is and how hot the guy she’s pursuing is. There isn’t enough memorable lyrics for the general listener to sing along which means the song is only good for 30 seconds. French Montana’s rap isn’t catchy or memorable and adds nothing to the track. I Luh Ya Papi shouldn’t have been picked as the first single since there isn’t enough energy to keep you entertained. The beat is also a letdown as it doesn’t climate to anything. Overall, this track is forgettable.
Acting Like That (Feat Iggy Azalea)
When I saw she had a track with Iggy Azalea I wondered why it wasn’t immediately the first single since Azalea is on fire right now. But the reason is because the song is sonically dull. It’s as if Lopez decided to drop the dance instrumentals for a R&B/Pop sound but kept the same dance lyrics and vocal tendencies you’d hear on a dance track making it repetitive and lacklustre. Iggy’s rap fails to even rhyme and sounds like a forced feature where you can tell the artists didn’t even meet for a drink beforehand. It’s a shame since her latest collaboration with Ariana Grande was very good. On top of that, the song doesn’t have a decisive ending leaving you feeling underwhelmed. After listening to the song a couple of times, it grows on you within the hook leaving the song not a complete failure.
You can tell Jennifer Lopez doesn’t sing this song effortlessly. It’s unusual for J-Lo to sing out of her comfort zone vocally but lyrically this is one of the best songs on the album. It may even be the most personal whereas other songs leave you unsure whether they are related to J-Lo’s personal life at all. The production is stripped backed so you can hear the vulnerability in her voice. A gripe with this song is that the melody of which she sings doesn’t match the beat making it sound awkward. The hook “Someone took my emotions” is quite catchy and you might find yourself singing it in public like the person writing this review. Overall, a decent track!
This song sounds like a part two to Emotions as she’s not fazed by the hate she’s received from her last relationship. Yet again this sounds more personal and believable for J-Lo and although the song isn’t necessarily gripping it’s not bad. Yet again, I think the production is lacking and fails to stand out. Weirdly enough, the beat sounds reminiscent of a GTAV soundtrack that I can’t quite put my finger on.
Let It Be Me
Let It Be Me sounds like old school J-Lo with the Spanish guitar at the beginning. The lyrics are also an improvement from the previous tracks. The quiet, mysterious production leaves you intrigued. It’s a little cheesy as it sounds similar to a lullaby but it’s still enrapturing. This song is a soft ballad about letting it be known that she’s the one you love. This song is one of the few where J-Lo’s vocals don’t sound too thin and suit the song perfectly. Overall, it’s a good track to chill to.
Worry No More (Feat Rick Ross)
The production is similar to the other songs on A.K.A but sonically it’s more interesting. I feel as if these songs were made for rappers since they lack melody which makes it hard for J-Lo’s vocals to resonate properly. Rick Ross suits this song perfectly and could easily pass as his own as he almost steals the show. Otherwise, the lyrics are unexciting leaving the instrumental as the highlight of the track.
Booty (Feat Pitbull)
The opening to Booty sounds very similar to Goin In when the kicks start. It’s certainly up-tempo but a slightly darker version of dance. I wouldn’t say this is different from her last album. You can immediately tell this is the best single for the album. It’s got a catchy hook and features the predispositions of a general dance song. Lopez’s monotone vocals work well with the beat as they sync together perfectly. You can tell she feels more comfortable with up-tempo music as she confidently handles the beat. Pitbull is one of Lopez’s long time collaborators that no one asked for. I personally feel as if Ciara would have been a great feature on this track. Imagine the music video choreography? It would really work for both of them and I don’t remember the last time Lopez collaborated with someone that wasn’t a rapper. Pitbull’s rap is stereotypical of him as it doesn’t add much to the song and could easily be edited out. It’s not as good as On The Floor but it’s better than her previous dance singles she’s released of late.
Tens (feat jack Mizrahi)
This song is interesting even if Mizrahi’s voice sounds like an 80’s action figure. This is a very sassy track and sounds very much inspired by Lady Gaga’s Born This Way and Britney Spears’ Work Bitch. It really works for J-Lo since she’s such a fashion icon and has been known to be a diva, I could see this as a third single. This song could be even bigger if she collaborated with Lady Gaga for a full on vogue session. Overall, the song is enjoyable and a different style that works.
Troubeaux (Feat Nas)
This track works melodically in comparison to other tracks on A.K.A. Troubeaux could easily pass as a song from an old school Jennifer Lopez album and is the closest to R&B/Hip Hop on the album. Nas’ rap is good and takes me back to their previous collaboration on “I’m gonna be alright”. Overall, it’s a great track.
Expertease reminds me of First Love but it sounds a little more interesting. It suffers the same fate as First Love where this song could be given to anyone (like Nicole Scherzinger) as it lacks an identity. It doesn’t really show Jennifer Lopez in a unique way but it’s a nice track to chill to.
Unfortunately Same Girl sounds rather dated as if it were released in 2007. You can tell Chris Brown helped with the track since it sounds similar to Champion. Luckily it was just a bonus track and not a single like it was first rumoured. Overall this song isn’t really relatable to anyone. It sounds like it could be on a soundtrack for a Step Up film on a montage scene.
A.K.A doesn’t necessarily bring back the old Jennifer Lopez we knew and loved it. It does have hints of the old school R&B/Latin tracks that she used to produce with songs like Let It Be Me and Troubeaux but overall it sounds like a watered down version of the dance music she’s released. It’s almost as if it’s a transition album from dance to pop with R&B influences but it hasn’t quite reached its destination yet which leaves the album sounding somewhat unsparingly mediocre. This is because the lyrics are similar to what you’d hear on a dance track but it’s coincided with minimal pop/R&B production leaving you with nothing to hold on to that you actually like. Some tracks do stand out however, such as Let It Be Me, Booty and Tens are all different in their own way. The sassiness of Tens works so well within J-Lo’s favour and I’m amazed she hasn’t ventured into that territory before as it doesn’t require much singing but some catchy hooks which Jennifer Lopez is very good at. Booty is no departure from her previous album and it seems as if Jennifer Lopez’s vocals are a lot more comfortable on a dance production than an R&B instrumental that leaves her vulnerable. The more interesting tracks are bonus tracks which are an amazing oversight since Nas was the best feature on the album and Expertease and Tens had single potential. Overall, it’s hard to place this album, because half of the songs are OK (provided you listen to the deluxe version) and half of them are forgettable. I would say it’s Ok but it lacks replay-ability. It doesn’t have any tracks that will have you playing it for a whole year and in comparison to her older albums it’s not a cohesive album. If you are going to purchase this album I would definitely recommend you make the most of your money and buy the deluxe version since the majority of the best tracks are featured as bonuses. Otherwise, I don’t know if this is the right direction Jennifer Lopez should go. The best tracks are the dance tracks where her vocals are most comfortable. Her R&B attempts just aren’t believable and I wonder if J-Lo can really relate to them herself. I hope Jennifer Lopez looks at this album as a work in progress and takes her time to perfect the next album.
Tens, Let It Be Me, Troubeaux, Booty
Acting Like That, Never Satisfied, Best songs were bonus tracks
Rating: Lacks replay-ability
Tune in next Saturday as I review Lana Del Rey’s “Ultraviolence” album
So after a 5 year hiatus from music after the critically acclaimed yet underrated Memoirs of An Imperfect Angel, Mariah finally returns with an album and the most undecided lead singles of all time. The journey towards this album’s release was not an easy one. With a connect 4 flop featuring Triumphant, #Beautiful, Art Of Letting Go and You’re Mine (Eternal). In addition to this, her singing was nowhere up to par with her usual performances she’s known for. She’s been caught lip syncing and when she did sing live she either forgot the lyrics or sung off key. People were ready to count Mariah out after the bad promotion but now the album is here, is it really as bad as expected?
Cry is a great opening for the album; it has an old school Gospel feel which brings nostalgia of the Emancipation of Mimi album. Moreover, within a few seconds I thought to myself “Mariah Carey is definitely back” surprisingly with powerful vocals as she effortlessly powerhouses over the instrumental. This is something we haven’t heard from Mariah in a while since normally she uses her whisper sultry vocals which led to some people believing she’d truly lost her powerful voice. Overall, it’s a really good emotional track that deals with regret over leaving a loved one. If you’re going through a breakup you’ll love this track…or hate how much you can relate.
Faded is produced by Mike Will Made It which is probably why I immediately loved the beat, he’s produced many hit songs in the past two years (Body Party, 21, We Can’t Stop). Faded is somewhat of a part two to cry but it sounds modern in comparison to Cry’s classic feel. It’s also reminiscent of Emancipation of Mimi due to the cow bells within the instrumental. The chorus isn’t as catchy as you’d like it to be and halfway through you realise the beat doesn’t really lead up to an awesome ending. It stays at the same plateau but in retrospect leaves Mariah Carey to croon on the beat like a boat to water and deliver brilliant vocals and somewhat of a random ending.
Dedicated (Feat Nas)
Yet again the production of this track is very good and has a reminiscent old school vibe. Drake could have easily been on this track but I’m pleasantly surprised it’s Nas that made the feature. My only issue is that although his rap is good, it’s too short to have any relevance. I’m not really sure what this song is about either. it feels as if it was made as a personal joke that we’re not a part of? Maybe it’s a song for Nick Cannon? It also sounds similar to Brandy’s Almost Doesn’t Count and Ashanti’s Unfoolish song. Overall, it’s a nice chill track.
I didn’t really care for this track when it first came out, but it’s a nice summer track. It sounds more within Miguel’s comfort zone than Mariah’s but she holds her own in his style. Mariah Carey should have released the album after this single instead of delaying it even further since #Beautiful achieved moderate success. #Beautiful also sounds like a slowed down version of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper in terms of its melody. This song could have been more successful if she promoted it more and didn’t waste time on an unneeded #Beautiful remix which stopped promotion due to breaking her arm on the set of the music video.
Thirsty is a club banger which sounds similar to N—s In Paris by Jay-Z and Kanye West. It was unexpected that Mariah would create a song like this but it works. The harmonies are smooth like butter yet the beat is sharp like a knife and they work together brilliantly. It’s also one of Carey’s most catchy tunes she’s done in years, maybe since ‘It’s Like That’ which makes it more enjoyable and fun as she steals one of the most used slang terms of the year. This track is a standout track because it’s different to the rest of the albums sound which is quite laid back and 90’s whereas this is current with a Mariah twist.
Make It Look Good
It’s a nice typical song about being infatuated with someone. However, I do feel like the topics discussed in this album have already been covered in previous albums in a better fashion. The harmonica really works and is an attempt to make the song more memorable. This track sounds like a reject track from Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel. That’s not necessarily an insult but nor is it a compliment.
You’re Mine (Eternal)
I wasn’t too sure why this was a single, It’s a good album song and her vocals are great when she goes from her chest to whistle register note towards the end. However, it’s no We Belong Together, the beat falls flat and the song isn’t catchy. It doesn’t connect with the listener as much as it should but overall it’s an OK relaxing song and reminds me of 2005 music.
You Don’t Know What To Do (Feat Wale)
This is a standout track from the album, the beginning sounds reminiscent to Somebody Else’s Guy by Jocelyn Brown but once you listen to it, you can imagine yourself relaxing on a boat in Barcelona with a full glass of lemonade. Wale talks over the song a bit too much to the point where you can’t hear Mariah in some parts. In certain songs where a rapper is featured you begin to think Mariah should ditch rappers, she doesn’t need them and they don’t add much to the songs. I don’t understand her obsession with them. This track should have definitely been a lead single choice. Yet again, this track makes you want to get up and dance which not many Mariah songs in the past have done (aside from It’s Like That). This song has the most energy on the album.
What is the fascination with putting babies in the studio? But it’s a nice song which I’m sure a lot of people especially mums will be able to relate to. The key change isn’t smooth and I’m unsure why it was needed. It also has hints towards Emancipation of Mimi and sends you back to 2005. Overall, it’s a nice track but doesn’t make you feel any strong feelings towards it.
This track has a 70’s vibe and is rather uptempo and danceable which is really unexpected. Lyrically, this is one of the worst tracks on the album but it can be forgiven due to its uniqueness. This song gives hints to a new style by Carey but she doesn’t own it as much as she should. Maybe she should have done a whole album with a 70’s throwback disco sound. That could have been iconic and trendsetting.
It’s similar to Cry but it’s beautiful. I love her gospel tracks and when she sings powerfully. The synopsis of the song is basically trying to move on from a broken relationship even though it’s tough so you hide your true feelings. This brings me back to the 90’s again. The lyrics are really descriptive in this song and the production is laid back to let her harmonies take the spotlight. I don’t understand why she isn’t performing like this. This is one of the highlights of the album vocally and emotionally.
Money (Feat. Fabolous)
I like the meaning of this song as it describes how money is of no importance if I can’t see the person I love. It’s somewhat catchy and is overall a feel good track. It’s also the first rap feature which is relevant. The only criticism is the questionable title.
One More Try
Originally by George Michael, it sounds similar to Sinead O Connor’s Nothing Compares To You but it’s a good cover. Ironically, the best lyrics on the album belong to a song from which she covered. Mariah is definitely more comfortable with ballads than her dance tracks but that’s of no surprise since they’re the reason she’s a legend. The song is about asking the person they love ‘if you want to be my first love then promise you won’t leave because that’s not what I want to learn from love’ which is a poignant topic for a song.
Sounds like it could be a soundtrack song for Freedom Writers or The Help. It’s nice, but next to the other gospel tracks on the album this one could be scrapped from the album. But it’s still a nice inspirational track.
It’s A Wrap (Feat. Mary J Blige)
I loved this song on Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel. However, Mary J Blige sounds like she’s singing the lyrics from a prompter. In addition to this, some of the transitions are awkward since Mariah couldn’t be bothered to re-record the track.
Betcha Gon Know (Feat. R Kelly)
This track was one of the best opening songs I had ever heard originally from Memoirs. However, I don’t think R Kelly needed to be on this song and yet again the transition wasn’t that smooth. The original was perfect and didn’t need to be redone.
The Art Of Letting Go
How this was almost a single I do not know. I think it makes sense to be a bonus track. Her vocals are good and the lyrics are quite smart. The ending definitely is a good climatic vocal performance and makes me think this song should have been the outro for the album.
It’s a good album but it’s not on Emancipation Of Mimi’s status which was a fantastic album with great single selections. But if you’re a Mariah fan it’s a definite buy. If you have Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel, don’t bother getting the deluxe version since the remixes aren’t worth it. If you’re a fan of R&B/Soul I think you’ll enjoy it. I’m not sure the songs are strong enough to become classics, but it’s a good album to listen and chill to. She almost comes at us with a new sound with the 70’s throwbacks but then delves back in to what she knows. It’s also as if she feels as if she needs to keep collaborating with rappers for some reason when she doesn’t. Ditch them! Unfortunately I think the bad single choices may have tarnished the album as a whole and will be the reason this album goes undiscovered. It does have hints of old Mariah and even songs that could have been recorded for Emancipation of Mimi but something is missing and it leaves you feeling as if this was almost there but not quite. Whatever it is, I hope Mariah finds it with her next album and gives us stellar live performances like she used to.
Rating: It’s worth purchasing on iTunes (But just get the standard version)
Cry, Camouflage, Thirsty, You Don’t Know What To Do
Buying the deluxe version! The extra tracks aren’t worth it. The features didn’t add anything to the originals. Heavenly should have been swapped with Art Of Letting Go.