Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Jennifer Lopez feat. Lil Wayne - "I'm Into You" (Single Review)

As career revivals go, Jennifer Lopez is sure pulling off a doozy. Following the gargantuan "duh" decision to sign on as a new judge for American Idol's major post-Simon tenth season remodel, Lopez has stealthily realigned the release of a new studio album that has been in the works for nearly three years (but has stumbled repeatedly over its own "Louboutins"). The Idol-aided retooling of promotion for Love? (out May 3) has been as remarkable as it is unusual, with no fewer than three promotional singles officially hitting digital stores (and one more high-profile, Lady Gaga-penned leak) to date. The kicker: they're all really good: lead single "On the Floor," featuring Pitbull, and this week's new release, "Papi," are a top-notch pair of smash dance hits, both produced by RedOne (his best work to date), and the former has hit the top five of the Hot 100. But my favorite thus far is the sizzling, understated, tremendously sexy Stargate production "I'm Into You," a track that boasts one of the more seductive bass lines of recent months and a feature spot by Lil' Wayne that's not actually a waste.

Given that lyrics carry far less importance in pop music than in many other song-based genres (as we know, in postmodern pop music the point is not what's being said, it's how it all sounds), plus with recent stylistic trends moving in the direction of dance and electronica, it was only a matter of time before pop songwriters began chucking verbiage entirely, the way modern artists eschew even basic concepts of structure and meaning. Thus we have Lady Gaga ending the chorus of "Telephone" with "Eh eh eh eh eh (11x)/ Stop telephoning me-eh-eh-eh (11x)," only to be outdone a year later by Britney Spears' Ke$ha-penned chorus on "Till The World Ends," which consists entirely of a repeated cadence of "Oh-oh-ohs." Non-lexible vocables are increasingly written in (or seen as such) as studio recordings of new songs become more authoritative with the increasing musicality and individual style of electronic recording and its producers, often in ways uniquely suited, and therefore eternally tied, to the original performer (while Spears does a game job with Rihanna's "Na na na come on!" on the recent remix to the latter's "S&M," it's hard to imagine Spears delivering Rihanna's now iconic "um-ba-rella, ella, ella, eh, eh" as in fact she was originally meant to do).

Taio Cruz, known as the infectious singer behind last year's #1 single "Break Your Heart" but with a solid and growing list of writing credits to his name, has borrowed from each for Jennifer Lopez on "I'm Into You," and the "nah nah nah nah na-ehs" that frame the lyrical segments of the midtempo sizzler are trendy and current (without being derivative) but also thoroughly J.Lo as well. I have always admired Lopez as a woman who can sing - well - without needing to wow us or assert her claim to legitimacy as a recording artist with belting or melisma-laden arias. Lopez's vocals gain command in their application, not their muscle power. Her effortless sensuality is fresh as it was on early 2000s hits like "Play" or "I'm Real," and it sounds even better over a deep bass that practically takes your clothes off for you. Stargate flips an effective production trick on its head by bringing the beat back after only one "nah nah na-eh" after the first chorus; it's an early surprise gift that maintains even the casual listener's interest in the low-key chillout cut, and by the end, when "nah nahs" gush by but the beat holds off for twice as long as expected, it's a perfect teasing trap carrying you to the end.

Lil' Wayne's opening verse is superfluous. But what saves the whole appearance from that fate (and what makes him a worthy, if not necessary, addition) is in the way the rapper's asides and incidental vocals pervade the entire track, much the way Lopez has always done (see her Michael Jackson-channeling on "Play"). Lil Wayne's performance fits aptly with Lopez's style for a seamless guest spot that in a way provides a counterpoint to Pitbull's appearance on the lead single - a structural commonality that somehow gives "I'm Into You" as much momentum and vibrancy as "On the Floor" despite the obvious differences in style and BPM.

"I'm Into You"
Jennifer Lopez feat. Lil' Wayne
Island Records, 2011
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