Don't pay attention to the title, which is absolutely
nonsensical and bewildering -- it suggests that
This Is Me...Then is a compilation, which it isn't,
and it also suggests that this has some sort of
theme, which it doesn't -- and concentrate on
the music, which is the strongest, sultriest,
best music Jennifer Lopez (who has abandoned the
moniker J-Lo) has recorded for any of her three
albums. This, of course, doesn't mean that it's
a radical musical departure, though there are
differences here -- the glitzy dance-pop has been
phased out, there's a stronger urban soul vibe,
particularly on the lush surfaces and sexy grooves
-- but it does mean that the album has a solid
set of songs and a sharp production pitched directly
at the mainstream of 2002, yet with nice allusions
to classic soul and early-'80s pop-funk and soft
Since Lopez is a celebrity and a regular feature
on gossip pages in the early days of the 21st
century, and since she's unabashedly mainstream
-- her only attempts at street-cred are on the
laughable lyrics to "Jenny From the Block," where
she insists that success hasn't spoiled her yet
and she's the same ol' Jen she's always been (if
so, why the paparazzi on the back cover?) -- it's
easy for some listeners to dismiss her, but it's
harder to make to make a pop album as easily enjoyable
as this. Sure, there are some flaws -- as mentioned
above, "Jenny From the Block" is silly and no
matter how much you love Ben Affleck, "Dear Ben"
is unbearably mawkish -- but all mainstream pop
albums stumble through filler.
What counts is the overall feel and the highlights.
Here, the feel is sexy, stylish, and fun, and
there are numerous highlights, all feeling effortless.
And if you think that's easy to do, take a listen
to a few other pop-R&B albums from late 2002 (Stripped
and Charmbracelet come to mind) and hear how good
this record is.