Review Summary: Don’t be fooled by the rocks that she’s got.
“Greatest Hits” albums tend to follow a strict and highly specific template. Their tracklistings often read like the soundtrack to a radio junkie’s ultimate bucket list, running the gamut of a given artist’s most popular radio hits while not giving a single fu
ck if any of those songs are actually a proper representation of the artist’s best and most creative output or not. Equally as likely are gratuitous servings of anywhere between one and three new songs – occasionally with a guest performer onboard – to smoothen the donning of the nostalgia goggles. The end result of this type of record also tends to be predictable in the extreme, and it’s usually one of two outcomes: either you get an overall aura of palpability and a cheap, synthetic pleasure at how playable the songs are despite their relative age, or you get a facial brickbat of moderate-to-raw disappointment at the discovery of how thin and forced the artist’s discography really is.
Jennifer Lopez’s Dance Again…The Hits
, falls squarely into the latter category, and it’s quite easy to see why even without getting into the specifics. To begin with, while often the premise of a “Greatest Hits” record is to offer a retrospective look at an artist’s career, on Dance Again…The Hits
, too often the sense is that having Lopez alone as the object of interest is insufficient as far as sales go. To help illustrate the point that I’m trying to make, consider the fact that of the thirteen songs on this compilation, nine feature at least one other performer alongside lil’ Jenny from the Block. While this may be largely due to modern pop’s recent (and unfortunate) propensity to include elements of hip-hop and dancehall rap within much of its output, it also gives the impression that as a product, having Jennifer Lopez alone is simply not enough. Worse, it lends credence to the suspicion that her frequent pairings with another performer tend to be decisions borne out of necessity – as opposed to being an independent creative choice.
This sense of inadequacy is further heightened by the decision to include the Murder Remixes of “Ain’t It Funny” and “I’m Real” over the original studio versions found on J.Lo
. It’s almost as if Sony Music held their hands up and admitted that the initial cuts that they published simply weren’t up to scratch. If that sounds depressing, then hold on – for it gets worse: the rest of Lopez’s studio material is also spread pretty thin elsewhere on the record. For instance, “Jenny from the Block” is the only song present from This Is Me…Then
. Likewise, Rebirth
only feature one song each (“Get Right” and “Do It Well” respectively), while Como Ama una Mujer
is completely unrepresented. To be fair, this would be perfectly fine if the material that was ultimately selected to represent Lopez’s career was up to scratch, but sadly that just isn’t the case. In fact, a huge chunk of the record comes across as a potent reminder that even at the height of her powers, Lopez tended to provide second-rate, filler radio pop which was distinctly inferior to what Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and even Shakira were pumping out at the time.
Ultimately, what this means is that the compilation simply doesn’t hold up any better upon close inspection either. Strangely for a “Greatest Hits” record, the tracklisting on Dance Again…The Hits
is simply all over the place, with no indication that the record executives or Lopez herself looked around for a logical start or an easy access ramp to her seven-album canon. As a result, we have bizarre moments like “Get Right” – with its looping horn refrains and funk-infused vocal flails – transitioning awkwardly into the old school hip hop of “Jenny from the Block”, whose introductory line of “Children grow and women producing/Men go working/Some go stealin’/Everyone’s got to make a livin’!” sounds much more atrocious ten years after the fact. Then there’s the part where the nu-disco of “Do It Well” swings to a solid halt, a hint of Latin flavor still lingering in the air, only for the entire mood to come crashing down like the Hindenburg as Ja Rule turns up a mere five seconds later and declares “IT MUST BE THE ASSSSSSS!!!” to open “Ain’t It Funny”. Elsewhere, the new material present herein is also found wanting: “Dance Again” is a shameless and half-assed attempt at recreating the success of “On The Floor” – easily the best song Lopez has produced in her entire career – but even the reenlistment of Pitbull and a rehash of the same brand of sleek grooves and quick-paced electro beats fail to prevent it from coming off as puerile and simply unoriginal. “Goin’ In”, featuring Flo Rida, isn’t much better, but at least its distinctly urban production adds an added touch of dynamism to proceedings.
Yet the most interesting observation, perhaps, is how Dance Again…The Hits
somehow manages to treat the two On the 6
cuts present herein – “If You Had My Love” and “Waiting for Tonight” – with a little bit more reverence. The former comes across as a solid monument to Lopez’s early fire and soulful persona, whereas the latter finds its niche as a welcome throwback to the dying days of the last millennium, when the world danced as one to the dawn of Y2K. Most importantly, both tracks achieve all this without the dumb conceit of that horribly misplaced Jenny from the Block persona or even the thick club licks which has characterized J.Lo’s recent output. In a way it’s fitting: the woman with many faces finds out that the one which suits her best was the one she started with.