In the course of one recent week, Jennifer Lopez was honored with a Billboard Icon Award; her single First Love became the most-added song on pop radio; she played to a sold-out crowd in Anaheim, Calif.; and wrapped another season as an American Idol judge.
In other words, life was business as usual for the multiplatinum singer known as J.Lo, who has multiple films and a TV series in the works, fragrances, countless endorsement deals, a TV and film production company and part ownership in a cable network.
“I think because I do a lot of different things, I don’t get credit for being great at one thing like some people are,” Lopez, 44, said of her mixed-medium career. “Somebody once told me, ‘One of the best things is when people underestimate you, because then you can always surprise them.’ ”
A.K.A., her latest album that came out Tuesday, is what Lopez wants to talk about now. “It’s very surreal. You feel like you started yesterday. Believe it or not, [the time] just goes,” she said, snapping her fingers for emphasis from inside the dressing room of a West Hollywood sound stage.
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Like previous efforts, the new album shows Lopez’s wide-ranging taste. She is large, she contains multitudes: “I did a couple of dance records, and people want me to do a dance album. Or they think I should go back to being ‘Jenny From the Block,’ ” she laughs. “I am dance, I am pop, I am R&B, I am hip-hop, I am Latin, I am ‘Jenny From the Block.’ But I am also ‘Jenny From Rodeo Drive.’ ”
Lounging barefoot in a leather armchair, the singer-actress-dancer and mom looked relaxed despite her whirlwind schedule and personal life. Two years ago, Lopez went through a highly publicized divorce from Marc Anthony. And reports of her split with Casper Smart, her choreographer boyfriend of over two years (he was once her backup dancer), are currently dominating tabloid sites.
“These last four years, I felt like I really had to look at myself. One of the things I realized was I had to love myself a little bit more,” said Lopez. “That was a huge lesson for me. My kids taught me that. They teach you a sort of unconditional kind of love and what it should feel like. It’s very selfless and pure.
“The breakup just made me go make some real realizations about myself. When you get to the point of loving yourself … you start going, ‘OK, well, who am I?’ Myself happens to be many things. Do I love all those parts? The good parts, the messy parts. And when I said that, so many things happened for this album.”
Although the album’s subject matter is familiar territory for Lopez, the purpose and confidence with which she sings are new. Lopez finally believes in her voice — and Anthony can take some credit. “He’s such a powerful vocalist, and he always believed in me as a vocalist, and he knew it was a confidence thing for me,” she says.
J.Lo recruited R&B/hip-hop heavyweights to contribute, like T.I. Nas, Rick Ross, French Montana, Iggy Azalea and frequent collaborator Pitbull; Chris Brown penned a handful of songs.
Also on her plate? Several films slated for next year, including the thriller The Boy Next Door, the indie drama Lila & Eve and the animated family film Home. Lopez also wrote her first book, the “soul-baring” True Love, due out in October.
“There’s a different strength to me than there was from my first album. I’m the same girl, I’m the same person, but I’m stronger now. I’ve grown up, and I like to think I’m a little bit better now,” she says before breaking into laughter. “But you don’t have to analyze it. Just enjoy the music.”
Gerrick D. Kennedy
The Los Angeles Times