Jenny's back on the block
The nightclubs of New York have inspired some of the best-selling pop of the past 30 years — just ask Madonna and Lady Gaga.
So, when a local diva wants to re-launch her career, where better to turn than her home town's vibrant nightlife?
That is certainly the attitude of Jennifer Lopez, who heads straight for the dance floor on her first album in four years. J.Lo the singer can cut an opaque figure, with her music often overshadowed by her celebrity status and film career.
Her voice, unlike that of Whitney Houston or Christina Aguilera, is a decent pop instrument rather than a great soul one. Many of her best moments have come on the back of Latin rhythms.
Pop has also moved on in her absence, with Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Katy Perry now ruling the airwaves.
Since 2007's Brave, an album blighted by too many ballads, Lopez has focused more on Hollywood. She has also become a judge on TV's American Idol and taken time out to raise her twins, Emme and Max.
Love?, her seventh album, was originally due out last year on a different label, Sony, its delayed release fuelling the impression of disharmony behind the scenes.
But, newly signed to Island Def Jam, she is finally back with an album that sounds contemporary without trying too hard to be cutting-edge: the rhythms are fresh and tough, the singer's affinity with them intuitive.
Any teenage lessons learnt while dancing the night away in Manhattan have obviously served her in good stead. The 12 tracks here do not reinvent the wheel, but they bristle with a sense of purpose.
Switching between R&B and state-of-the-art pop, J.Lo sounds fully engaged.
Another returning US star, Britney Spears, also leant heavily on dance music for her recent comeback album, Femme Fatale. But while Spears sounded like a puppet being coached by her producers, J.Lo appears to be running the show. Despite some of the studio trickery that distorts most modern pop, her vocals are forceful and distinctive.
Chart-topper On The Floor sets a dynamic tone. Lopez's biggest UK hit for six years, it features a rap from Pitbull and a refrain lifted from the 1980s dance number Lambada.
On The Floor is no fluke, though. I'm Into You, co-written by British star Taio Cruz, sticks to a similar mix of summery rhythms. A slew of propulsive dance tracks follow, including the hip-hop-flavoured Run The World and the outstanding Papi, on which J.Lo reiterates her flair for Latin pop.
But the album is also well-paced, with a half-time interlude allowing the listener to catch their breath.
Until It Beats No More is the first of two mid-tempo ballads that owe something to Alicia Keys. Its combination of a yearning melody and harsh, electronic drums is also reminiscent of Leona Lewis' Bleeding Love, with J.Lo showing her vocal capabilities as she lets loose towards the end.
In the same vein, One Love is another slow track with jittery electronics. It makes references to J.Lo's past relationships with Sean Combs and Ben Affleck before paying tribute to husband Marc Anthony.
The two Lady Gaga tracks — Invading My Mind, which she co-produces, and Hypnotico, which she co-wrote — dominate the closing stages. As with most of Gaga's material, both are heavily in thrall to the melodic thump of Euro-disc. Hypnotico closes the album in style, with a soaring vocal chant.