One and 1/2 stars
Desperately seeking a musical identity, Jennifer Lopez continues her decade-long habit of trend-grabbing, and delivers an album that sounds, at times, almost embarrassingly self-conscious.
Lyrically, “AKA” delivers mixed messages; Is Lopez still a regular old girl from the block, or is she a femme fatale with a bottomless bank account? Is she a mature female pop artist, or is she still capable of delivering tunes stuffed with teen-themed puns like “expertease” and “bootyful”?
On the musical front, the mix is even murkier: Is Lopez an artist with a vision, or simply someone who can afford to hire songwriters and producers du jour? The answer seems to be simply that Lopez is a mega-famous star who happens to make the occasional record, just as she happens to act in films, and happens to fill a seat at the judges’ table on “American Idol.” None of it smacks of necessity. It simply is what it is.
“AKA” gets off to rough start with the title track, a bouncy affair peppered with a guest appearance from T.I., who contributes nothing to the party. In fact, that’s one symptom of “AKA’s” sickness – the star cameos seem wholly arbitrary, like unnecessary name-dropping at a Hollywood cocktail party. Iggy Azalea, Rick Ross, Pitbull – all of them fail to spice up the gumbo when they show up. Even the best song here – the already-a-hit “I Luh Ya Papi,” featuring French Montana – is not likely to be remembered beyond the summer of its release.
Max Martin, who offers up the maudlin “First Love,” gives Lopez the proper setting for her thin, heavily processed vocals. The track offers an innocuous blend of club beats, buzzy synths, and a pure pop chorus, and Lopez sounds comfortable in this territory. Conversely, “Booty” is Euro-dance, and Lopez sounds out of place in this world, as if hoping to be accepted in a new clique. It’s moments like these that suggest that Lopez, as beautiful as she remains, is aware of aging, and desperately hoping to deny this reality.
“AKA” is by-the-numbers contemporary dance pop. Generic to the point of annoyance, it boasts neither bark nor bite.
– Jeff Miers