Jennifer Lopez Flips The Gender Script For Album No. 10

Jennifer Lopez is more than a musician and an actress: She is a brand. NPR's Lynn Neary speaks with Lopez about her latest artistic endeavor, a new album called A.K.A.

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LYNN NEARY, HOST:

Jennifer Lopez is a force to be reckoned with - a singer, a dancer, an actress, a businesswoman. She's a global superstar, who has topped the list of Forbes most powerful celebrities. And now, Lopez has released her 10th album, "A.K.A."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FIRST LOVE SONG")

JENNIFER LOPEZ: (Singing) I wish you were my first love because if you were first, baby there wouldn't have been no second, third or fourth love.

NEARY: We caught up with Jennifer Lopez last week in New York, where she had recently given a concert on her home turf, the Bronx. Lopez says she's never left her Bronx roots behind.

LOPEZ: It really just informed and shaped who I was, walking those streets every day. Even the flavor of growing up in the hip-hop era there. You know, the food that we ate, everything. Everything about it (laughing) and all the traditions and the culture of growing up there, and with my family, formed and shaped who I am today. And I carry all of those sensibilities with me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JENNY FROM THE BLOCK")

STYLES P.: (Rapping) Make the money, get the mansion, bring the homies with us.

LOPEZ: (Singing) Don't be fooled by the rocks that I got, I'm still, I'm still Jenny from the block. Used to have a little now I have a lot. No matter where I go I know where I came from. Don't be fooled by the rocks that I got.

NEARY: Your life has changed so much since then. Can you still hear that reflected in your work in this album?

LOPEZ: Absolutely. Growing up in the Bronx, you know, I heard hip-hop music on the same street as you heard Latin rhythms, you know, and salsa, merengue. And you also heard pop music and R&B, and it was such a melting pot. It was such a mix of things going on. And even today, in this album, all of those influences are still there.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TROUBEAUX")

LOPEZ: (Singing) See the funny thing about you, you got me doing things I wouldn't do. You ain't no ordinary boy. You going to be trouble. You going to be trouble.

NAS: (Rapping) You got Henney in the cup, Jenny know what's up. She with the real one, not pretending to be tough. Got three cases, might have a warrant I don't know about, beef I don't know about, weed I can't go without. My money used to pile up every beginning of the month, unconditional love, at the beginning it was lust.

NEARY: Let me ask you a little bit about your career. You got a big boost a couple of years ago when you became a judge on American Idol. And I wondered, going into that, did you have any hesitation? Did you see it is a gamble, or did you sort of have a hunch that that might work for you?

LOPEZ: I just went with my gut. There was a lot of people around me who were, you know, advising me against it in that moment, to be quite honest. But I don't know. I just love the show. And I thought like, I had something to offer to it. Like I love talking about music and I love talking about performing and artistry and all that kind of stuff. And you really don't get to do that. You don't - there's no kind of avenue to mentor, to use the experience that you have of 20 years in the music business and give it to somebody. So it was kind of an awesome opportunity to do what I love, talk about what I love, on a show that I love.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I LUH YA PAPI")

LOPEZ: (Singing) I put it down for a brother like you. Give it to you right in the car, that's you. We can first give you some of this, that's you. And you're all out loving that J. Love, true.

NEARY: There's a video that you made to go along with this album that sort of begins with a discussion about women being objectified...

LOPEZ: (Laughing) Yeah.

NEARY: Tell me a little bit about that and how that came about.

LOPEZ: The director thought, you know, this is kind of like, feels like, a little bit like a rap record on the verses. He was like why don't you play a rapper in the video? And we kind of, you know, how in all these kind of classic hip-hop videos, the women are always kind of objectified and the guys are always in a mansion or a yacht. And let's do a video like that.

(SOUNDBITE of SONG, "I LUH YA PAPI")

LOPEZ: Hold up, I can get you run up, pull your trigger, go and get your gun up. Now let me tie my hair up top, put a pin in it, all right, let it rock. Keep it number one, that's easy mathematics. Keep it number one, baby ain't no static. Got the hourglass for you, baby look at these legs.

I just thought it was a funny way to turn the tables and to flip that script and show kind of how ridiculous it is sometimes, how women are just put there and objectified by pouring champagne all over them and making them wash a car with their boobs (laughing) or whatever it is. It's one of those things that's accepted. I'm not one to do a lot of, like, political or social commentary with my music. It's not about that. For me, it's always entertainment.

NEARY: Well, I think there are a couple of songs on this album where you seem to be poking a little fun at yourself. I'm also thinking of the song "Booty" here.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BOOTY")

LOPEZ: Big, big booty but you've got a big booty. Big, big booty but you got a big booty.

You know, at a certain point in your life, you just have to accept all of who you are. We talked a little bit about the music, you know, pop, dance, R&B. You know, some people will be like oh, is it a dance album? Is it a pop album? Is it an R&B album, what is it? I'm not going to put myself in a box or in a cage and limit myself.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NEVER SATISFIED")

LOPEZ: (Singing) I've been tossing and turning, oh this hunger is burning. I need something to feed my soul.

NEARY: You know, in a recent interview with the LA Times, you talked about getting confidence in your vocal ability after having gotten a lot of criticism. And you've also, you know, you've had your - people have criticized some of your movies as well. How hard is it that take, that criticism? Has it ever made you feel like, I'm just going to give up?

LOPEZ: Yeah. Sure. You know, I'm a human being. (Laughing) I've been in this business a long time, so I've dealt with that. There's no person in this business who doesn't have to deal with criticism and judgment. It's just part of the job. It's part of the territory. I don't complain about it. It's not that it doesn't affect me, I'm a human being. And it plays on your insecurities, but at the same time, you have to give yourself that love and that pat on the back and go, you know what? I've been doing this for 15 years now, 20 years. This is not a mistake, this is not a fluke. Give yourself a little pat on the back here. So yes, sometimes the negative stuff screams out louder. But the truth is, I've been very lucky and been very, you know, had a lot of great things said as well. So I try to concentrate more on the positive side of it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NEVER SATISFIED")

LOPEZ: (Singing) I'm never satisfied. Honey my appetite is keeping me up at night. I'm going crazy for more of your love.

NEARY: A long time ago, you told a reporter that you would like to star in a Broadway production of "West Side Story." And I wondered, you're a real New York City girl. I wondered if Broadway still has that kind of appeal for you?

LOPEZ: Absolutely. I actually think about it a lot. But we'll see, we'll see. I'm pretty busy right now (laughing). I've got a lot on my plate, but maybe one day. I mean, I've always loved the theater. I really love it and I love musical theater more than anything. So we'll see.

NEARY: Jennifer Lopez, her new album "A.K.A" is out now. Jennifer Lopez, thanks so much.

LOPEZ: Thank you for taking the time. I appreciate it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LET IT BE ME")

LOPEZ: (Singing) If the day comes that you must leave, let me be the ground to your feet. If the day comes that you feel weak.

NEARY: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Lynn Neary.

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