Album Review: Jennifer Lopez – This Is Me… Now

[Nuyorican/BMG; 2024]

Jennifer Lopez is no stranger to the word “Icon”. She’s always carried the term proudly and the profound confidence has always shown in all her artistry. She’s been at the media forefront since the 1990s, and has been through a repeated cycle as she dutifully wedded Ben Affleck once and for all in 2022. In 2002, her third studio album This Is Me…Then encapsulated the couple and how the treatment from the media created a rise and fall of “Bennifer”. On her ninth studio album, This Is Me…Now, she channels relationship strength, but does so with the weakening skills from an artist now 25 years into her music career. This Is Me… Now isn’t wrapped in JLo’s usual green Versace dress – instead we’re left with a clearance sale on SHEIN with a shirt reading “I Love You So Matcha”.

Those of us who had the pleasure of knowing JLo’s early start were able to experience those radio-loving hits. “If You Had My Love” from her debut On The 6 and “Love Don’t Cost a Thing” from 2001’s JLo are reminiscent of the American pop boom, one JLo heavily contributed to. This Is Me… Then was JLo’s step into R&B and hip-hop, which was previously experimented on with tracks like “I’m Real”. But on this new album, which seems to be named as some kind of follow up to that 2002 effort, JLo tries to rechannel that love of hip-hop and R&B but falls flat after a decade of pure pop and EDM influences.

Title track “This Is Me… Now” is an admirable effort, opening up the album with an integral scenescape of production styles and value heard throughout the album. An assortment of instruments that could be traced back to 2001 and lyricism that can be found in your diary. Flutes, light piano, off-kilter snaps, this is a blast from the past through typical musical construction. Though the overuse of random chimes throughout the project cause a detestation for anything above a certain pitch register, on this track their comforting tone emphasizes our nostalgia – especially for a JLo who can craft a decent project. 

Mid-album highlight “not.going.anywhere” is a gangsta arm shimmy. It’s a faded club deeptrack that carries a Mary J. Blige spirit and possibly even the infamous “Ignition” (Remix). “Eternally yours, I don’t feel that fading / Looking at my man like, ‘That’s my baby'”, she sings with the emphasis of a bonafide anthem. For JLo the hip-hop halftime rap during the bridge settles it, “Bennifer” is OTP and she’s not.going.anywhere. 

The following “Rebound” is clearly a hopeful hit from the BMG label team, but unfortunately its bouncy chorus won’t go far on TikTok – it might chart at 85 on the Billboard Top 100. Its enthusiastic and singalong lyrics hike up the mountain of favorability, but are completely destroyed in an avalanche during the bridge where JLo’s distorted vocals completely silence the room. The hip-hop tracks on the album are a true hit or miss, with tracks like “Rebound” being overwhelmed by distracting pop undertones.

While a lot here can be exhaustingly wistful previous, “Midnight Trip to Vegas” offers a more contemporary excursion. “I always dreamed that I’d find somebody like you,” she sings, an ode to Ben again – but this time it isn’t too cheesy, it’s more of a low-fat cottage cheese. Fast paced and pulling in sounds from modern R&B, the lyrical storytelling falls quite simply and fills us in nicely about where she’s been since her last album. Vegas became her second home during her two-year residency and she got to show off her powerhouse qualities every night. These are glimpsed on this track.

Some of the most notable tracks from Lopez’s discography are some of the best party anthems that carried the 2010s club scene. If you’re a true fan you also know her slow-and-somber-but-sweet hits like “Dear Ben”. The track is a long distance kiss that is so passionate you only wish to have your own Ben Affleck. JLo’s attempted update on the new album, “Dear Ben pt.II ”, carries an oversaturated tone which can be best described as how NFL fans feel about Taylor Swift. “Sitting here alone, looking at my ring, ring,” she sings, mentally stuck in 2004. This sister track still carries JLo’s love clearly and loudly – it’s a shame that it reminds you of your parents kissing.

What truly fails with the 44-minute project is the lack of unadulterated hits. There is no “Jenny From the Block”, no collaborations. Grasping at straws, what you’ll get is JLo’s deluxe edition that carries remixes and collaborators like Latto and Anuel AA. This Is Me…Now retells a love story, for JLo apparently it’s the “Greatest Love Story Never Told”, which she finally gets to tell on the closing track – though this is her second round. Considering this is her first album since 2014, it’s unfortunate that it can feel a little one-note. A Romeo and Juliet-esque yearning wasn’t necessarily expected or desired, and it doesn’t always serve her best across this effort.