Moving to Capitol/EMI after a one-off record at Island/Universal, Jennifer Lopez seizes the opportunity of a new label to jump-start her career with A.K.A. It isn't quite a complete reboot, however. Its executive producer is RedOne, who worked on 2011's Love?, but this record attempts to push J-Lo further into modern dance, by having her duet with T.I., Pitbull, and Rick Ross, not to mention Iggy Azalea, who was the hottest rapper in the U.S.
A.K.A. is a fitting title for dancer turned actress turned singer turned fashion designer turned American Idol judge Jennifer Lopez. Not only has J. Lo assumed various names and guises over the years, but she's successfully dabbled in nearly half a dozen musical genres, from R&B to dance to hip-hop to Latin pop.
At her best, J. Lo combines and energizes familiar dance-pop sounds to make music worth getting lost in (in 1999, "Waiting for Tonight"; in 2011, "On the Floor"). On her eighth album, however, she just sounds lost. Beyond summer-anthem contender "I Luh Ya Papi," Lopez supplements flat production from names like RoccStar with forgettable verses from rappers like T.I., claims street cred but offers nothing to show for it and awkwardly seeks cool in third-rate Diplo beats and New York's underground vogue scene.
"This is not the girl you used to know," sings Jennifer Lopez at the start of her eighth album, but anybody who heard 2011's Love? won't find much new here, forgettable EDM-by-numbers floor-fillers jostling with marginally more inspired ballads. Happily, none of the 20-odd special guests or producers seems to have given any thought to the reliably duff lyrics, which make AKA a far more interesting experience than it might otherwise have been. On Never Satisfied, she reveals that her "appetite is keeping her up at night" – can she not afford a fridge? – while Booty finds her and Pitbull celebrating big arses in spectacularly risible fashion.
“You don’t know me now / oh you don’t know me now” is the last line you hear in the chorus of the title track for Jennifer Lopez’s album A.K.A. And that’s really the irony: Jennifer Lopez (or JLo if you prefer) has always bared herself so much it’s impossible not to know who she is. The singer, actor, and American Idol judge seems to know exactly what to do in order to cater to everybody.
There is one half of a solid album in “A.K.A.,” Jennifer Lopez’s first new release in three years. The opening handful of songs have a satisfying boom bap and hooks aplenty, providing the zippy soundtrack for gearing up for a night out on the dancefloor. From the splashy opening title track, where slow-jam verse gives way to pumping chorus, to the earworm “First Love,” which manages to be sexy and booming as Lopez rhapsodizes about how if her new love had been her first, she’d never have had a second, the “American Idol” judge sounds like she’s having more fun this time around.