J. Lo takes few risks on fourth album ‘Rebirth’

Andrew Hampp

Jennifer Lopez, seen here in Rebirth’s most conservative photo, unleashes another album of so-so pop tunes.

Credit: Andrew Hampp

There’s something to be said about an album whose sexy booklet photos are more interesting than the actual music.

As soon as the infectious first single, “Get Right,” is done kicking things off, Jennifer Lopez’s fourth album, Rebirth, fails to offer any songs that can compete with the booklet’s salacious shots of the bikini-clad singer lounging in the sand.

Take the album’s very second song, “Step Into My World,” Lopez’s lame attempt at Indian-influenced hip hop.

“Like a moth to a flame / you know you’re drawn to me,” begin the song’s tirelessly clichéd lyrics. “I know you better / than you know yourself, baby / Why do you try to resist / What you want honey / I want you to give me / What I need / listen closely.”

The song is one of two lame tracks reuniting Lopez with her On the 6 producer Rodney Jerkins, which explains why the majority of Rebirth doesn’t even hold a candle to her stronger efforts, 2001’s guiltily pleasurable J. Lo and 2002’s surprisingly decent This Is Me…Then, both of which were helmed by Cory Rooney.

Elsewhere, J. Lo tries her hand at Evanescence-style electric guitar-and-strings power balladry on “(Can’t Believe) This Is Me.” While the song is impressively arranged and was even co-penned by Lopez’s latest hubby, Marc Anthony, it only emphasizes what the rest of the album reveals less blatantly: Lopez cannot sing emotively worth a damn!

For example, “Ryde or Die” — a leftover track from Brandy’s excellent Afrodisiac — would sound a helluva lot better if Lopez didn’t sing it so blandly. Not to mention the fact that producer Timbaland’s trademark quirkiness is nowhere to be found on a track so sleep-inducing it even features a music box in the background. It’s as if Rebirth’s producers expected you to take a nap at this point in the album.

The album’s only other bright spot is “Cherry Pie,” an in-your-face funk jam featuring a vocally competent Lopez purring such lines as “Damn, why do the wild ones turn me on” and “I can be your cherry pie / And you can be my cream on top.”

“Cherry Pie” recalls the best of early ‘90’s Janet Jackson, and is the only other song aside from the sax-tastic groove of “Get Right” that brought a smile to this reviewer’s face.

Lopez showed promise at last month’s Grammys, where she performed a song in Spanish with Anthony. Although Lopez didn’t always hit the right notes, it made her sound like a vocal powerhouse when compared to her phoned-in vocals on Rebirth.

Perhaps a half-English, half-Spanish salsa album would provide Lopez with a true musical rebirth. To satisfy fans, it could even come complete with a bonus DVD on which Lopez would teach her fans how to salsa dance in the bikini from the Rebirth booklet!

It just seems Lopez should really get back in touch with her roots, or anything resembling actual music. J. Lo has no right to call an album Rebirth unless it contains some radically different material.

Contact Pop Arts editor Andrew Hampp at [email protected].