Saturday, May 1, 2010

jLo Gets Brave

The artwork depicts two Jennifer Lopez's staring into each other's eyes, confronting each other as the hot pink rain falls from the skies. Brave isn't as confessional or personal as the album cover and title would like you to believe, yet with it's sleek production, soulful melodies, and candy sweet harmonies, Jennifer Lopez's first album since the hit 2007 Spanish-language disc Como Ama Una Mujer, succeeds on the same levels as J.Lo's previous efforts.

With every album debuting in the top ten, including her Spanish-language CD, Lopez's musical career has proven successful over the years, as well as diverse. Her sounds have ranged from pop (Love Don't Cost a Thing), flamenco (Ain't It Funny), hip-hop (I'm Real), tropical (Si Ya Acabo) and quiet storm (Still), but on Brave, Lopez ventures out into the sounds of disco, smooth jazz, middle-eastern, and electronica on a majority of the material.

At first listen, the music, aside from the album's first single, the radio-friendly "Do it Well," surprisingly, does not remind the listener of the current acts on the radio when listening to the disc, but legendary acts such as Sade and revolutionary dance acts like Jamariquoi. "I Need Love" pays homage to Sade's 1992 classic "Feel No Pain" with its afro-jazz bass line, while "Stay Together" is neo-disco at it's best.

The European first single for the album "Hold It Don't Drop It" serves as the album's dance floor killer in the same vein as previous hits "Waiting for Tonight" and "Play" with it's blasting horn section and pumping bass line. 80's-soul tingled tracks including "Be Mine" and "Gotta Be There" fill the listener's ears with the sugary sounds of jazz flutes and funky bass lines. On the other side, the weakest tracks are the pop-ballads and electronica tunes. "Wrong When Your Gone" is a slow-jam gone wrong. "Never Gonna Give Up," is a string based ballad that just doesn't cut it.

The fluffy "Brave," is nice, but isn't exactly the next empowerment anthem. Lastly, there is "Mile in These Shoes" which has everything going wrong for it, from cringe-worthy lyrics, a lackluster melody, and an electro-pop beat that's hard to dance to.

Another disappointment is the album cover.

While fierce, it is a bit deceiving; as it would have you believe this is the dance album of the century, when only a portion of the tracks are in the dance mode.

Lopez makes up for the musical slumps with the sexy, almost eerie "Frozen Moments," a track with a haunting cello hook, quiet vocals, and minimal music. The track is reminiscent of the 1983 Diana Ross single "Pieces of Ice," and it succeeds the same way Ross's track did; combining odd music with an interesting melody. Unfortunately, the track was only available with the pre-order version on I-tunes, but it's definitely worth looking for.

Jennifer Lopez is a fine example of a singer taking their given talent and strengthening it and using it for everything its worth. While she will never be the next Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey, Lopez makes up for her limited vocal range with character, infectious songs, and diverse sound. Brave isn't as ambitious as J. LO, or even as commercial in its sound, but for it's efforts, Brave proves Lopez still can do it well.

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