J. Lo has little to say, not much voice to say it with


March 1, 2005


Jennifer Lopez has reached that rare strata of super-celebrity where she's famous just for being famous.

Sure, J. Lo has had plenty to keep her busy. There were the cinematic classics, such as "Gigli" and "Maid in Manhattan." There's her recently confirmed third marriage to Latin pop star Marc Anthony. There are the clothing line and the perfume, and, of course, there is choosing what outrageous outfit to wear on the next red carpet.

With all of that weighing on her, you have to wonder why the 35-year-old former fly girl would bother to record a new album, much less one that trumpets her "Rebirth." But then I never understood why such a forced and limited singer would try to have a musical career in the first place.








J. Lo's musical role model has always been Janet Jackson, for whom she once worked as a dancer. But where Jackson rose above the liability of her own unremarkable voice by choosing the right producers (Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis) and exuding an undeniable personality, Lopez is a hazy presence on her own albums both musically and in the heavily air-brushed photos, a chimera that provides no focal point for the well-crafted dance-pop constructions of her personal A-list production team.

Arriving in stores today, "Rebirth" finds Cory Rooney, who oversaw Lopez's 1999 debut, "On the 6," serving as executive producer and getting some high-caliber help from Rodney Jerkins, Timbaland, Big Boi and even Lopez's new hubby. While there are a few too many sleepy ballads, other tracks are appealing enough, from the blatant Prince ripoff "Cherry Pie" to "Step Into My World," which evokes Madonna in her Middle Eastern mode, to the hard-grooving hit "Get Right," which is built on a sample of James Brown's "Soul Power '74" and opens and closes the disc in two different mixes.

But Lopez has very little to say on her fourth set of new material, and she says it in a slight and forgettable voice. You'd think that a woman who's been through as many turbulent love affairs as she has would have some things to get off her chest, but she co-wrote only two of the 11 songs. And for all her talk of rebirth, she offers little insight into the inner workings of her soul.

Mostly, J. Lo coos in her effects-heavy wisp of a voice about all of the reasons we should love J. Lo: "Short skirt, golden-brown thighs/ Gucci heels, 4-inch high," she chirps on "Whatever You Wanna Do." In case we missed the point, she spells it out on "Step Into My World": "Like a moth to a flame, you know you're drawn to me."

Certainly, Lopez has the power to attract male duet partners, including guest rappers Fat Joe and Fabolous. But whenever one of the fellas steps up to the mike, you forget that Jenny was ever on the block, much less in the house.

Artistically speaking, the best use for "Rebirth" would be pulling Lopez's vocals off and giving the tracks to some mash-up mixmasters to add singers with some fire. As it is, this is just one more piece of product from a lucrative celebrity cash machine, though you have to venture to a record store to pick it up, instead of just clicking on www.shopjlo.com