Editor’s Note: Our recurring “Portrait of the Artist” playlist series pays homage to the artists responsible for the most inspired and indispensable discographies of all time. We hope you enjoy these tributes, and stay tuned for many more to come.
In April of 2003, Jennifer Lopez released “I’m Glad,” the third single from her third studio LP This Is Me…Then (2002). The album had already secured the heft of its sales off the back of its first two singles and the singer-actress’ own pop culture omnipresence. Though it drew more attention in the United Kingdom, “I’m Glad” was only mildly successful here in America, which may partly explain why it's occasionally overlooked in critical discussions of her discography.
In retrospect, “I’m Glad” and its parent album were formative for Lopez, evidence of her aptitude for making music that mattered past its “sell-by date.” Specifically, “I’m Glad” was her first classic love song, a solid, but euphonious composition sure to appreciate over time regardless of its chart fortunes. It’s this remarkable ability to produce music that creatively stands firm that has drawn praise from fans.
There have been mistakes along the way though. J.Lo (2001) and Love? (2011), on the whole, lazily slouched in the direction of tasteless shrewdness in relation to trends, drawing the ire of her waiting detractors. Still, Lopez was always ready with the unexpected hat trick no one saw coming, like the frothy “First Love,” the second single from her 2014 A.K.A. album. The Klymaxx inspired synth-funk groove let Lopez take flight on the track with passion and power. It recalled the artistic pinnacle of records like Como Ama una Mujer (2007) or Brave (2007), projects Lopez was invested in sans commercial gains.
To celebrate Lopez’s 48th birthday today, I’ve compiled 40 songs across her eight studio albums that spotlight the captivating journey of one woman’s discovery of her own pop heart that tends to triumph more than it fails. Listen to and enjoy the playlist below!