Jennifer Lopez boasts one of the most impactful resumes in entertainment. Along with selling over 80 million albums and garnering four Billboard Hot 100 chart-toppers, she has smashed barriers for Latin performers as a career chameleon — becoming the ultimate multi-hyphenate icon.
It feels almost unbelievable to think that J.Lo's balancing act was once deemed too risky. By the time she was releasing her debut album, On the 6, in 1999, Lopez had made a name for herself in Hollywood thanks to her starring role in 1997's biographical musical drama Selena (which foreshadowed her power in the entertainment business, as her $1 million salary made her the highest paid Latina actress at the time). Under the guidance of music mogul Tommy Mottola, On the 6 was met with much acclaim and propelled J.Lo into another stratosphere.
Now, nearly 25 years later, Lopez has released eight albums, starred in over 30 films — which have collectively grossed over $3 billion — and embarked on numerous business ventures, including her launch of JLo Beauty and alcohol brand Delola. Her fragrances alone have raked in over $2 billion.
Of the many hats Lopez wears, her music career is the most awe-inspiring for many of her fans. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, and ahead of Lopez's eagerly awaited This Is Me… Now album (her first in nearly a decade), GRAMMY.com is revisiting the hits that made the Bronx native a household name, as well as lesser-known songs that rival even her biggest anthems.
"If You Had My Love," On the 6 (1999)
"If You Had My Love" was first offered to King of Pop, Michael Jackson, before finding a home on Lopez's debut album, On the 6, named after a New York City subway line that she frequented before fame. On the Rodney Jerkins-produced tune, Lopez's assertiveness takes center stage as she addresses a potential lover: "Now if I give you me, this is how it's got to be/ First of all I won't take you cheating on me/ Tell me who can I trust if I can't trust in you/ And I refuse to let you play me for a fool."
Staying atop the Hot 100 for five consecutive weeks, "If You Had My Love" was undeniable proof that Lopez was capable of achieving crossover success in the music industry. It also coincided with 1999's "Latin Explosion" — which launched the careers of fellow Latin pop icons Shakira and Ricky Martin.
"Waiting for Tonight," On the 6 (1999)
Of all of Lopez's smash hits, "Waiting for Tonight" is arguably one of the most timeless. As Lopez's first song to top the Dance Club Songs chart (she has since scored 18), "Waiting for Tonight" is synonymous with helping to usher in the Y2K era, thanks to its celebratory lyrics and accompanying New Year's Eve-themed video. It showed that she had critical clout, too, as "Waiting for Tonight" earned Lopez her first GRAMMY nomination for Best Dance Recording in 2000.
The Latin house anthem is so quintessentially J.Lo that it's easy to forget that it's a remake of short-lived girl group 3rd Party's song, further exemplifying her star power. What's more, it teased her future Spanish-language project, as she cut a sultry Spanish version titled "Una Noche Más" which closes out On the 6.
"Let's Get Loud," On the 6 (1999)
On the 6 opens with a string of R&B tracks — including "Feelin' So Good" featuring Fat Joe and Big Pun — before taking a different turn with "Let's Get Loud," which flaunts Lopez's Latin heritage. Within the first few seconds, the proud Nuyorican declares "Ya Jeny llegó, presente!" (translating to "Jenny has arrived, present!"), and it's impossible not to dance along.
Co-written by Gloria Estefan, the salsa number mostly flew under the radar, never cracking the Hot 100. Even so, "Let's Get Loud" managed to score Lopez her second GRAMMY nomination for Best Dance Recording in 2001. It also remains one of J.Lo's signature songs, becoming a set list staple and playing part in career-defining performances, including the Super Bowl halftime show in early 2020 and Joe Biden's inauguration the next year.
"Love Don't Cost a Thing," J.Lo (2001)
A self-proclaimed "hopeless romantic," Lopez told potential suitors that her love don't cost a thing on her second album, J.Lo. Reaching No. 3 on the Hot 100 and even taking the top spot in several countries, the song's commercial success solidified her hitmaker status, simultaneously thrusting her relationship with then-boyfriend Sean "Diddy" Combs further into the spotlight. It's rumored that "Love Don't Cost a Thing" was aimed toward the Bad Boy Records founder: "When I took a chance, thought you'd understand/ Baby, credit cards aren't romance/ Still, you're tryna buy what's already yours/ What I need from is not available in stores," she sings in the second verse.
"Love Don't Cost a Thing" also kicked off Lopez's tradition of releasing catchy earworms like "I'm Glad," "I'm Into You," and "Marry Me" that chronicle the A-lister's quest for happily ever after.
"Walking on Sunshine," J.Lo (2001)
With anticipation-filled lyrics like "I can't wait, wanna see how this night is gonna be," "Walking on Sunshine" (not to be confused with Katrina and the Waves' 1985 classic) sounds like a sequel to On the 6's "Waiting for Tonight." Lopez even performed a mashup of the songs during her 2001 tour.
The infectious song follows platinum hits "I'm Real" and "Play" on J.Lo — and yet, it still manages to outshine both. At its core, "Walking on Sunshine" is pure bliss, and perfectly captures the dance-pop genre that flourished in the early aughts.
"I'm Real" (Murder Remix) feat. Ja Rule, J to tha L-O! The Remixes (2001)
Armed with a slinky smooth Rick James sample, Ja Rule's grittiness paired with Lopez's soft coos are a match made in vocal heaven on the "Murder Remix" of "I'm Real," which pushed her more into urban territory after Black radio stations complained that her J.Lo album lacked an R&B-leaning single. (And Ja Rule screaming "What's my motherf—in' name?," to which Lopez responds "R-U-L-E, still reigns as one of the best opening lines in a song.)
Despite drawing criticism at the time due to Lopez's use of the n-word, the collaboration became so popular that it was added to the reissue of J.Lo, making the original version seem almost nonexistent — paving the way for more major reworkings of Lopez's songs, including "I'm Gonna Be Alright" and "Ain't It Funny." The latter started as a Latin pop record before being reimagined as a hip-hop track with all-new lyrics and an in-your-face "Flava In Ya Ear" sample, making it completely unrecognizable to listeners while serving multiple demographics.
"I'm Gonna Be Alright" (Track Masters Remix) feat. Nas, J to tha L-O! The Remixes (2001)
Reworked for her J to tha L-O! The Remixes album, "I'm Gonna Be Alright" is easily Lopez's most forgotten hit — but it's one of her finest, thanks to Lopez's confident delivery, along with its captivating melody and resilient lyrics. "I said I couldn't do it but I did it/ After telling everybody that I wasn't with it," she sings on the chorus. "Though it brings tears to my eyes, I can feel it/ And that voice inside says I'm gonna be alright."
Featuring Nas (who replaced then-rising rapper 50 Cent, which ignited a feud between the two), and a sample of "Why You Treat Me So Bad" by Club Nouveau, "I'm Gonna Be Alright" stands out as one of Lopez's few singles that deal with a failed relationship.
"Still," This Is Me… Then (2002)
Creatively, Lopez was at the top of her game when her third studio album, This Is Me… Then, arrived in late 2002. Yet, it sold fewer copies compared to J.Lo, even despite producing megahits "Jenny from the Block" and "All I Have" (more on those later). As iconic as those songs are, they don't compare to the soulful album's opener "Still," which set the perfect tone for This Is Me… Then — her most romantic and sonically cohesive project to date.
Built around a sample of Teddy Pendergrass' 1979 song "Set Me Free" and enhanced with synthetic record scratches for a retro feel, the lyrics heard in "Still" are actually quite simple. But it's the haunting melody and Lopez's sincerity that pulls in the listener immediately, and makes them wonder why it wasn't released as a single in lieu of "Baby, I Love U!," which stalled at No. 72 on the Hot 100.
"Jenny from the Block" feat. Styles P and Jadakiss, This Is Me… Then (2002)
It's a running joke that Lopez shouts out The Bronx every chance she gets, so it's only fitting that a song like "Jenny from the Block" exists in her arsenal.
Featuring The LOX's Styles P and Jadakiss, "Jenny from the Block" teeters on pretentious as Lopez insists that fame and fortune haven't changed her. But fans and music lovers alike ate it up: The song spent three weeks at No. 3 on the Hot 100 and remains one of her most-streamed and highest-charting singles.
At the time, she was still riding high off making history as the first person to have a No. 1 album (J.Lo) and movie (The Wedding Planner) in the same week. By then, Lopez and then-boyfriend (and now husband!) Ben Affleck's romance had turned into total tabloid fodder, as seen in its accompanying video — which is infiltrated with shots of Bennifer on a yacht, grabbing lunch, and stopping for gas while the paparazzi captures their every move.
In a lot of ways, "Jenny from the Block" represents just how ubiquitous J.Lo was in the early 2000s. Outside the Bennifer craze, the rags-to-riches song remains an ode to Lopez's Bronx upbringing. It even birthed Becky G's "Becky from the Block" and seemingly inspired Fergie's "Glamorous," which topped the Hot 100 in 2007.
"All I Have" feat. LL Cool J, This Is Me… Then (2002)
Lopez and LL Cool J's chemistry is undeniable on "All I Have." Relying on a controversial sample of Debra Laws' "Very Special," the song's call-and-response quality is what makes it so fun to sing along to even after all these years.
Though the ballad showcases Lopez's softer side, female empowerment takes over: "'Cause I'm good holdin' down my spot/ And I'm good reppin' the girls on the block/ And I'm good, I got this thing on lock/ So without me you'll be fine, right," she sings on the song's pre-chorus.
"All I Have" not only became Lopez's fourth No. 1 hit, but thanks to its holiday-timed release and winter wonderland-themed video, it was dubbed a "Christmastime breakup theme."
"Get Right," Rebirth (2005)
In the three-year gap between This Is Me... Then and Lopez's fourth album, Rebirth, she hit a career low when Gigli bombed at the box office. She and Ben Affleck famously called off their engagement a mere five months later. Surprisingly, though, much of Rebirth is void of heartbreak and takes a lighter approach, as evidenced by the horn-laden lead single "Get Right," which sees Lopez enjoying herself at a club.
"My hips moving, oh, so slow/ Bar tab looking like a car note," she sings in the second verse. At face value, it's easy to view "Get Right" as just another dance tune, but it doubles as a metaphor for Lopez's openness to finding love again in the face of heartbreak.
"Qué Hiciste," Como Ama una Mujer (2007)
Lopez fully embraced her Puerto Rican roots from day one, recording Spanish-language and bilingual songs here and there, like 1999's "No Me Ames" and 2001's "Cariño." But after recording 2004's "Escapémonos," a duet with then-husband Marc Anthony, she was inspired to go all in — and she did so with 2007's Como Ama una Mujer.
A self-described "dream come true," Como Ama una Mujer spawned the rock-infused "Qué Hiciste" (translating into "What Did You Do"), Lopez's first Spanish-language song to crack the Hot 100 at No. 86 — though it ruled the US Hot Latin Songs chart. On the tune, Lopez sings from a scorned woman's perspective (e.g., "Hoy empañaste con tu furia mi mirada," which translates to "Today you clouded my gaze with your fury"), showing off her flair for drama with a blazing hot video to match.
"Stay Together," Brave (2007)
Seven months after Como Ama una Mujer's release, Lopez returned to her more radio-friendly sound, but it came with a funky twist à la her sixth album, Brave. Lead singles "Do It Well" and "Hold It Don't Drop It" were lauded by music critics, though "Stay Together," the LP's opener, arguably steals the show.
On the pro-monogamy track, Lopez exudes confidence while dropping words of wisdom: "Through the bumpy roads, the others bite the dust/ 'Cause they be thinking they're in love when they're in lust."
"On the Floor" feat. Pitbull, Love? (2011)
Ahead of joining the 10th season of "American Idol" as a judge, "On the Floor" was the chart comeback Lopez needed after two back-to-back underperforming albums. The lead single off her seventh studio album, Love?, pays homage to her dance background as she sings lyrics like "If you're a criminal, kill it on the floor/ Steal it quick on the floor" over a thumping beat.
Heavily interpolating Kaoma's "Lambada" from 1989 and featuring guest verses from Pitbull, "On the Floor" skyrocketed to No. 1 in over 30 countries and became 2011's best-selling single by a female artist, reinstating Lopez's staying power. (To further prove its impact, there are two versions of "On The Floor" on Spotify — both of which have more than 400 million streams each.)
"First Love," A.K.A. (2014)
Lopez was dating backup dancer Casper Smart, who was nearly 20 years her junior, when she dropped the feel-good "First Love." Their age difference raised eyebrows, but in typical J.Lo fashion, she wore her heart on her sleeve.
On the percussion-heavy track, she sounds carefree while seemingly acknowledging her failed romances. "I wish you were my first love/ 'Cause if you were first/ Baby, there would have been no second, third or fourth love," she sings on the chorus.
Even though it didn't fare well on the Hot 100, it marked her first and only time joining forces with pop genius Max Martin. It also gave Lopez her 15th No. 1 dance hit, tying with Donna Summer for the seventh-most on the chart at the time. Earning three more No. 1 dance hits between 2014 and 2020, Lopez surpassed Summer with an impressive 18.
In the nine years that have passed since Lopez's last studio album, A.K.A., Lopez has released dozens of one-off singles, including "Ain't Your Mama," "El Anillo," "Dinero," and "Medicine." Much to her fans' surprise and delight in the fall of 2022, she commemorated the 20th anniversary of This Is Me... Then with an announcement of This Is Me… Now, an aptly-titled sequel to her 2002 album. Lopez told Vogue that the forthcoming endeavor — which chronicles her rekindled relationship with now-husband Ben Affleck — is not only her most honest work to date, but "a culmination of who I am as a person and an artist."
While J.Lo has yet to announce an official release date, she just performed nine songs from the album at a special Apple Music Live show on Sept. 21. Once This Is Me… Now is finally unveiled, it will unlock a new era for the triple threat — one that only continues her awe-inspiring, ever-influential legacy.
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