Being the ignorant gringo that I am, I’ve declined to review Spanish-language albums in the past, but since Jennifer Lopez has got about as much business recording a Spanish album as I do writing about one, I figured I’d throw caution to the tropical breeze. (Okay, so that’s not quite parity, but you get the point.) Spanish-language albums always seem like safe bets for Latin artists whose crossover success is on the wane. But Lopez, whose last album, 2005’s Rebirth, was a commercial disappointment, didn’t get her start with the more dependable Spanish-language audience, so it remains to be seen whether she’ll be welcomed with open arms the way, say, Ricky Martin or Gloria Estefan always have been. Not to mention, Lopez’s last two albums have been decidedly stripped of any trace of her Latin heritage.
Lopez’s vocal shortcomings notwithstanding, she sounds surprisingly relaxed and at ease throughout Como Ama Una Mujer, particularly on “Adios,” an ostensible live recording that closes the album and finds the singer accompanied by a chorus of adoring fans. “Por Qué Te Marchas”—which, despite translating to “Why Are You Goin’ Away,” is the Spanish version of the dramatic “(I Can’t Believe) This Is Me” from Rebirth—works better here in the context of an album that plays like a telenovela audio book. The London Symphony Orchestra provides a cinematic quality, particularly on “Tú,” which features a soft (but highly pitch-corrected) vocal performance by La Lopez.
The problem is that Lopez easily ages herself by a decade or two. In other words, Mama Lopez is probably going to love this album. It may have been Jenny From The Block’s dream to record a traditional Spanish-language album in the style of what she heard growing up, but for an artist who’s always had her ear to the ground of current musical trends (this is a woman who once released a remix of a remix just to stay current by a few weeks), the album is shockingly middle-of-the-road. The title track, for example, is something J. Lo wouldn’t be caught dead recording in English. There’s nary a Latin booty-shaker in the bunch; the closest we get is the Latin-rock of the not-bad lead single “Qué Hiciste.” For more than that, though, we’ll have to wait for Esto Es El Remix.
With dance music experiencing a (hopefully temporary) nadir in popular music at the moment, Como Ama Una Mujer presented a unique opportunity for Lopez to play to her strengths by pumping up the beats and employing the dance rhythms that drive Latin music. The uptempo “Dame” from her second LP, J. Lo, and the Spanglish club hit “Let’s Get Loud” from her debut blended nicely with her R&B and dance-pop endeavors; similar songs would have appealed to (and maintained interest with) the MTV Tr3s audience—the hipper, younger, bilingual generation that buys both English and Spanish-language music. That’s not to say she should be jumping on the reggaeton bus (though there is a reggaeton remix of “Qué Hiciste”). Como Ama Una Mujer, which she co-financed, is obviously something that’s close to Lopez’s heart, but it’s a less than shrewd move for one of pop culture’s savviest icons.