This Is Me... Now

Jennifer Lopez

Nuyorican / BMG, 2024

REVIEW BY: Peter Piatkowski


Jennifer Lopez is our Elizabeth Taylor. She’s the kind of Hollywood royalty that recalls celebrity of a bygone era. She’s a diva meant for the monoculture. Her debut album, 1999’s On the 6, was released when MTV was in its TRL moment: pop stars would descend onto the TRL studios in Times Square to introduce their new music and mingle with screaming teens. When Jennifer Lopez decided to expand her celebrity to music, she was a natural fit for millennium-era pop. Veteran divas Janet Jackson, Madonna, Mariah Carey, and Whitney Houston were plotting how to enter the 2000s, competing with singers half their age. Jennifer Lopez was a natural successor to the legendary pop singers of the ’90s, bringing that multi-platform glamour while maintaining a fresh perspective.

A quarter of a century later, Jennifer Lopez is a brand as much as a recording artist. It’s not just music. It’s movies. It’s television. It’s clothing. It’s restaurants. It’s perfume. Every project that Lopez attaches her name to is weighed down with her overwhelming fame. Her new album This Is Me…Now is Lopez’s canny way of competing with the likes of Taylor Swift and Beyoncé, two singers who have redefined the concept of the 21st-century pop diva. Like Swift and Beyoncé, Lopez has designs on proving herself not just a charismatic pop singer but an auteur, releasing a $20 million film to accompany the record.

This Is Me…Now is a sequel to Lopez’s third album, 2002’s This Is Me... Then. That record was released as a public valentine to her then-partner Ben Affleck, to whom the album was dedicated. The record’s lead single, “Jenny From The Block,” was a self-referential tune built on her self-constructed legend. The album was another huge hit for the singer, selling over six million copies, spinning off a string of hit singles. The sound was a slight departure from the flashy dance-pop of her first two albums, looking to ’70s soul-pop and sunny disco-flecked r&b.

Her new album is a return of sorts to that soulful sound. It’s not a drastic departure from her usual sound, which borrows heavily from contemporary urban pop. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 This Is Me… Now comes 22 years after its predecessor, but the sound on the new album doesn’t sound too different. Though Affleck and Lopez split after the first album, in the subsequent years, Affleck famously married and divorced Jennifer Garner and became something of a tabloid fixture, eventually becoming a meme-worthy figure of midlife ennui. Reunited with Lopez, Affleck has inspired yet another studio LP from the multi-hyphenated superstar.

On the first album, Lopez guilelessly included a treacly track, “Dear Ben.” She got shit for it, especially after their publicized bust-up. Now that they're back together, the second album has a companion tune, “Dear Ben, Pt. II,” a marked improvement on the original. Perhaps it’s because she decided to pay tribute to her honey with a sweetly swinging number instead of a ponderous ballad. For such a calculated and deliberate performer, “Dear Ben, Pt. II” is surprisingly vulnerable and open, its lyrics hopeful and lovey-dovey, as she trills, “And when I think you let me down/You lift my hopes/And if I try to pull away/You pull me close/And you remind me why you are the man I chose.”

Affleck inspired the opening tune, the title track, which tells their off-and-on love story. She passionately coos, “Growin’ pains, broke some chains in every chapter/Now we know what it takes for our ever after/Took some lefts, now we’re right, here we are.” It’s a spirited performance and a charming tune that introduces an introspective Lopez who’s only too happy to share her travails with her audiences.

But this is Jennifer Lopez’s album, so we also have the funky, feisty dance tune. The first single, “Can’t Get Enough,” is a grinding, groovy number that recalls the singer’s best hits. It’s the kind of exciting number that made Jennifer Lopez such a reliable hitmaker in the 2000s. The album’s other single, “Rebound,” is a moody, pensive song with classic noughties skittery beats and clipped vocals. These were wise choices for singles because they’re definite highlights.

The other high spot, surprisingly is “Midnight Trip to Vegas.” Despite its silly title, it works remarkably well. Expertly employing a sample of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game,” the song is a successful story-song in which Lopez imagines escaping the circus of an oversized wedding for a simple elopement in Las Vegas. It’s an understated, sweet, yet humorous song that uses Lopez’s sweetly melodic voice. The lyrics, with their harried descriptions of “Orchid arrangements, dresses and pastries…families and agents, room reservations…paps helicopters, event of the ages” sound like the plot devices of one of her romantic comedies. (Weddings feature greatly in Jennifer Lopez’s cinematic oeuvre.)

The last studio LP from Lopez was 2014’s AKA (though it wasn’t like Lopez was silent: she released the soundtrack to her rom-com Marry Me last year). A decade is a long time to return with a proper studio release, and this feels as if Lopez is releasing a definitive album. She has suggested that this may be her last album. If that’s true, she would be ending her recording career on a qualified high. Though This Is Me…Now doesn’t hit the highs of Taylor Swift’s Midnights or Beyoncé’s Renaissance, it’s a cohesive, consistent work that celebrates a refreshing sunniness. If anything, This Is Me…Now celebrates the happiness of finding love. This may not be Lopez’s magnum opus, but it’s still endearing.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2024 Peter Piatkowski and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Nuyorican / BMG, and is used for informational purposes only.