Happy 10th Anniversary to Jennifer Lopez’s Como Ama una Mujer, originally released March 23, 2007.
It had been three years shy of a decade since On the 6 (1999) propelled the wide-eyed Bronx Latina, former Fly Girl and promising actress Jennifer Lopez into music. Lopez’s first three albums had become hit records globally, but, by 2007, she had hit a creative wall. Her previous set, Rebirth (2005), had not lived up to its mammoth title; her harshest critics began circling, waiting for the inevitable end to this “flash in the pan.” Lopez wasn’t so easily undone.
This Is Me…Then (2002), Lopez’s third affair, had been something of an unlikely artistic master stroke at the apex of her celebrity. The record reformatted her contemporary urban-pop with a polite touch of vintage late ‘70s-to-early ‘80s pop-soul. Suddenly, Lopez showed a musical ear that heretofore hadn’t been heard, her influences ranging from Angela Bofill to Mtume. To a mainstream listener, this maneuver was lost on them. But for those with the musical education scrutinizing Lopez, her third album was an undeniable back-to-front triumph―an ideal balance of single and album fare that expanded her style. Additionally, it saw Lopez emerge as a prominent co-writer across an entire LP. This creative energy went semi-dormant on Rebirth, but sparked back to life as the recording sessions for her fifth LP, Como Ama una Mujer (How a Woman Loves), picked up in 2006.
Marc Anthony, Lopez’s husband at the time, had been the catalyst to push Lopez to embrace her longtime desire to record an entire album in Spanish. While Lopez had briefly played with Latin pop on her first two records―which led to her being incidentally grouped within the Latin pop boom of the late 1990s and early 2000s―to outsiders, it seemed to be nothing more than a flirtation. With Lopez (finally) turning toward Spanish music, it set her back on the path she started with on This Is Me…Then with respect to stretching her sound.
Lopez tapped Anthony, Julio Reyes, and Estéfano (born Fabio Solgada) to write and produce the album. All three men were musically decorated, bringing their wealth of experience to the table without overriding Lopez’s own persona; she remained active in providing direction for the songwriting and sonics of Como Ama una Mujer. Barring Anthony joining Lopez briefly on back-up vocal duty on the choruses of “Te Voy a Querer” (I Will Love You) and “Por Arriesgarnos” (By Risking Us), Como Ama una Mujer was predominantly a Jennifer Lopez vehicle.
The contents of the LP bridged an engaging stratum of traditional-to-contemporary Latin pop aesthetics bedrocked in a romantic melancholia that permeated the 11-track long player. Vocally, the record hit its mark, widening Lopez’s range with a richness and technical growth evinced on “Tú” (Your) and “Sola” (Alone), both effective in their emotional evocativeness due to Lopez’s skillful performance. The music of the album kept up with its moody narrative pace, the grooves borrowing from cumbia (“Te Voy a Querer”/I Will Love You) and rock (“Me Haces Falta”/I Need You) equally. Restraint was accommodated on the album with the song “Adiós” (Goodbye), but the affable ballad bombast of “Porque Te Marchas” (Why Are We Marching?) was welcome too. The latter had been rescued and reworked from the Rebirth side “(Can’t Believe) This Is Me.” For Lopez, she clearly reveled in the bolder aural color palette at her disposal and her newfound vocal strength.
Como Ama una Mujer was released on March 23, 2007; the record had already been introduced to the public by its lead single, “Qué Hiciste” (What Did You Do?) on January 26, 2007. The fiery guitar pop track was met with mixed-to-positive reception on the English language end of the American charts (US #86, US Dance #1), but found widespread favor with its intended stateside Latino audience (US Hot Latin Songs #1, US Latin Pop Songs #1, US Tropical Airplay #7). Abroad, Lopez tightened her grip on Spain when the single topped their singles chart. Commercially, Como Ama una Mujer fared equitably in America (US Billboard 200 #10, US Billboard Latin Albums #1, US Billboard Latin Pop Albums #1) and exceptionally overseas (Spain #2, Portugal #12, Switzerland #1); the long player locked in platinum sales in the Swiss, Portuguese and Spanish territories easily, maintaining Lopez’s international appeal.
Critical obstruction stood steadfast as Lopez’s biggest hurdle, with cynics laughing off the album as too austere for the singer, demanding she stick to “urban dance music,” an unfortunate case of negative bias to be sure. Promotional momentum slowed for Como Ama una Mujer as its second single, “Me Haces Falta,” was issued digitally and made no chart impact. An explanation for the moratorium of the record could be seen in the components of a larger plan at play for Lopez. Her fifth record had been recorded in tandem with her sixth LP, Brave, which appeared later within the same year. Also, Lopez had been shooting the film El Cantante, a biopic on the legendary salsa singer Héctor Lavoe. Marc Anthony was cast as Lavoe and Lopez as Lavoe’s wife. With so much happening at once, the demure charm of Como Ama una Mujer was lost in the moment, unable to find more exposure.
However, a decade's distance from its release, Como Ama una Mujer remains one of Lopez’s most consistent records, fueled by the passion and determination initially glimpsed on This Is Me…Then. That spirit has kept Jennifer Lopez as a strong presence in popular music for close to two decades, one with the ability to defy (and surprise) even her staunchest critics.