This Is Me... Then
|This Is Me... Then|
|Studio album by Jennifer Lopez|
|Released||November 25, 2002|
|Jennifer Lopez chronology|
|Singles from This Is Me... Then|
This Is Me... Then is the third studio album by American singer Jennifer Lopez. It was released on November 25, 2002, by Epic Records. Prior to its release, Lopez began a high-profile relationship with director and actor Ben Affleck, and a media circus ensued. The entertainer's relationship with Affleck served as her main inspiration for the album, which is dedicated to him. Initially scheduled to be released the following year, This Is Me... Then's release date was quickly pushed forward after its lead single, the notorious "Jenny from the Block", was leaked online.
For the album's recording, Lopez once again recruited Cory Rooney, Troy Oliver and Dan Shea, who had all collaborated with her before. She decided to shift away from a pure dance-pop to more of an adult R&B and soul sound, influenced by soul music from the 1970s, the music she grew up listening to. The record's throwback material was integrated with mainstream hip-hop and pop music. During its production, Lopez was influenced greatly by works of Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross and Stevie Wonder among others. The album's lyrics primarily focused on her love for Affleck, but other subjects including her humble introspective and former lovers were visited.
This Is Me... Then received general acclaim from critics, though drew minor criticism. Lopez's change of musical direction was praised, with many deeming this her strongest music to date. Although, some dismissed its lyrical content and production as "dull". Overall, This Is Me... Then established Lopez as an artist of more depth, garnering her more respect from critics. The album went on to achieve commercial success, peaking at two on the Billboard 200 and selling 2.6 million copies in the United States. Throughout its chart run, the album continued to perform strongly. Worldwide, it performed modestly, peaking within the top ten of fifteen charts. It has sold 6 million copies worldwide and certified either Gold or Platinum in seventeen countries.
The album's lead single, "Jenny from the Block" featuring Styles P and Jadakiss of The LOX, became a worldwide hit, peaking at three in the United States. However, its release was followed by the notoriety of its music video, which featured Affleck. The single has since been used as a nickname for Lopez in the media, known as one of her signature songs. The album's second single "All I Have" featuring rapper LL Cool J was also a hit, peaking at number one in the United States. "I'm Glad", the third single, performed moderately. The single's music video was met with critical acclaim, but caused controversy for recreating scenes from the 1983 film Flashdance. Sony and Lopez were sued over this, but the lawsuit was dismissed. This Is Me... Then spawned a fourth single entitled "Baby I Love U!" which failed to chart in most regions.
Prior to the release of This Is Me... Then, Lopez experienced heightened commercial success in her film and music career. Following the release of her debut album On the 6 (1999), which spawned the successful hit singles "If You Had My Love" and "Waiting for Tonight", Lopez has successfully crossed over from being an actress to a pop star within the space of twelve months. Thus, joining an elite group of stars to have achieved this feat. The entertainer went on to experience even greater success with her next studio effort J.Lo (2001), an album which allowed her to transition her image to that of a sex symbol, while also developing more of a public persona. In February 2002, she released J to tha L-O! The Remixes, her first remix album. It became the first remix to top the album charts in the United States, securing Lopez a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. With her commercial success, Lopez's personal life became a prominent media subject, in particular her romances with recording artists Marc Anthony and Sean Combs.
In June 2002, Lopez divorced her former back-up dancer Cris Judd to pursue a relationship with Academy Award winning actor and director, Ben Affleck, "Hollywood's Golden Boy". That November, Affleck proposed, resulting in a higher amount of attention towards the couple. The public and media began to refer to them as "Bennifer" and they became a prominent supercouple in the media and popular culture. Bennifer became a popular term, which was eventually entered into urban dictionaries and neologism dictionaries as notable, and the name blend started the trend of other celebrity couples being referred to by the combination of each other's first names.
Speaking of the publicity, Lopez told MTV News: "We try [to keep things private]." "I'm not saying there's not times that we wish [we] could just be going to the movies and come out and there's not a crowd there waiting. You just want to spend your Sunday afternoon not working, but at the same time we both love what we do. If that's something that's part of it, then that's fine. We feel the love and we're very happy about it," she stated. While speaking of the damage that could be caused, Lopez said: "I think [the media can cause damage] if it's not a real thing. I've been in relationships where they were kind of unstable, and so the media messed with it a lot." The overexposure from the media and public interest in their relationship resulted in less admiration for their work and negatively affected their careers.
Conception and recording
Affleck, who Lopez referred to as her "baby", was described as her primary muse for creating the album, with much of its lyrical content being dominated by innuendos to their romance. "I wrote a lot of songs inspired, in a way, by what I was going through at the time that this album was being made, and he was definitely a big part of that," she told MTV News. According to an Epic Records spokesperson, This Is Me... Then "features the Bronx heartthrob in a more hands-on role, co-writing more material than ever before". Consisting of Lopez's "personal sketches", the title references to where Lopez was at that point in her life. She said, "Who you are at that time, what kind of music you like, what kind of beats you're into, what kind of state of mind you're in, what you're attracted to ... it's all very telling of where you are in your life at that point. ... Twenty years from now, if I give this [album] to one of my kids, I'll be like, 'This was me then, at that moment.'" Lopez officially dedicates This Is Me... Then to Affleck on the disc jacket where "You are my life ... my sole inspiration for every lyric, every emotion, every bit of feeling on this record" is written.
Lopez wrote many lyrics for the album which she kept in a little red leather book. In what she calls her "magic book", Lopez scribbled down her thoughts and ideas. The album's artwork and liner notes were modeled after this book, which would "further the feel of an intimate portrait of Lopez's soul". Of this, she said, "I wanted the pictures to look kind of aged, like it was a scrapbook. ... All the writing [in it] is all kinds of crazy and upside down and sideways just as it is in my book." The majority of This Is Me... Then was recorded over the course of two weeks. While recording, Lopez listened to a vast range of Blues & Soul music, which was one of her favorite musical genres growing up. Songs by Stevie Wonder, Luther Vandross and Michael Jackson among others had a deep influence on her, and inspired the album's sound. According to Lopez, she attempts to "elicit a similar feeling" in her own songwriting from these artists' songs on the album, because they made her "heart sing". Vandross and Wonder's records "just stay with you" according to Lopez, who wanted to make something that was true to her upbringing as well as her current love life.
Lopez was "enamored" by the "contagious" melodies of Michael Jackson's album Off the Wall (1979), which led her to summon the record's mixer and engineer, Bruce Swedien, to work on This Is Me... Then. Lopez felt that Jackson's "clear and spacious" records made her feel a "certain way". She said, "It has such a beautiful quality on it, and every time I looked at a record [I liked], it would be engineered and mixed by Bruce Swedien. I was like, 'Who is this guy? I want this guy.' So I tracked him down and he was like, 'I want to do something with her. I know exactly what she needs. I'm coming in.' And it made a huge difference."
The album's short recording span had Lopez immensely busy, as she tried to juggle her film career at the same time. She relied on a long-time producer of hers, Cory Rooney, to assist her with songwriting and production. Rooney—who had experienced success with Destiny's Child, Ricky Martin and Mariah Carey apart from Lopez—was described by Lopez as "so talented", "He's really, really just dedicated to music for the pure love of music." Other producers Lopez worked with primarily were Troy Oliver, Loren Hill and Dan Shea. The entertainer previously collaborated with Oliver and Shea on her sophomore effort, J.Lo (2001).
Music and lyrics
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The Age newspaper described This Is Me... Then as a "declaration of love" for Ben Affleck. Boston Globe's Steve Morse wrote, "[the] love affair has fired up Hollywood and now pop listeners can now share the vibe. This is one hot album, as [Lopez] sings to lovers everywhere with a soulful passion that will quicken pulses and libidos." Entertainment Weekly felt that while J.Lo had more of a "Missy Elliott sound", the album had more of a Minnie Riperton sound. The album's main theme is the subject of love. Multiple songs contain music samples of 1970s soul music. "The One" is based around the Stylistics' song "You Are Everything" while "All I Have" samples Debra Law's song "Very Special".
Most of the albums songs were written by Lopez herself. The album opens with "Still", a track built around a sample of Teddy Pendergrass' "Set Me Free", which is dedicated to a former lover. It was noted to be an "open" letter to Sean Combs, with lyrics stating "Do you ever wish we never split?/'Cause I've still got love for you." "I'm Glad" represents Lopez finding her true love, with the lyrics "I think I'm in love/Damn, finally!" Elsewhere, its second track, "Loving You", samples Mtume's "Juicy Fruit" as well as George Benson's "Never Give Up on a Good Thing".
The album's lead single, "Jenny from the Block", lyrically speaks about Lopez remaining humble in spite of her fame and fortune. It contains samples of Beatnuts' "Watch Out Now", Herbie Mann's "Hijack" and KRS-One's "South Bronx". Artists like Faith Hill would also revisit the same theme about being true to one's roots in a country music context for her single "Mississippi Girl", which many observers compared to "Jenny from the Block". Overall, "Jenny from the Block" intones Lopez's "modest childhood roots, vowing she wishes to remain simple despite her diamonds."
The bulk of This Is Me... Then's lyrical content was dedicated to Lopez's relationship with Affleck. This theme was evident in songs such as "Dear Ben" and "Baby I Love U!", which detail her romantic relationship with the actor. In "Dear Ben", Lopez sings about her inability to control herself when it comes to her addiction of loving "Ben". It contains lyrics such as, "You will always be ... To me, my lust, my love, my man, my child, my friend and my king" and "I think God made you for me". The song professed their love in the media. In "Baby I Love U!", which contains a "haunting" interpolation of the theme of the Midnight Cowboy film, the entertainer sings about being a hopeless romantic, with lyrics such as, "What I wanna know is/ Are you willing to try?/ Can you love me for a lifetime/ In just one night?" The Guardian commented that the album's material which showed how "smitten" she was came off as "borderline annoying".
A 19-second sample consisting of the chorus from the album's lead single "Jenny from the Block", in which Lopez professes "No matter where I go, I know where I came from."
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On September 26, 2002, a song entitled "Jenny from the Block" by Lopez featuring Styles P and Jadakiss of The LOX was leaked online. A pop radio station in Hatford, Connecticut, later picked up the song from the internet. "Jenny from the Block" was then immediately distributed to other stations owned by Infinity Broadcasting as the album's lead single. The single went on to experience international commercial success, peaking within the top ten in the United States as well as over twelve other countries. An accompanying music video for the song, directed by Francis Lawrence and featuring Affleck, was released. According to The Spectator, "Before celebrities become stars, they dream about gaining fame, fortune, and being in the spotlight [...] The video is basically about how she cannot find privacy with her fiance Ben Affleck. A lot of glamour is associated with fame and fortune; however, along with that glamour comes the loss of privacy". The music video became one of the most controversial ones in pop culture at the time. Considered "the video that killed Ben Affleck's career", the actor stated, years after his engagement to Lopez ended, that he regretted filming it. Despite the music video's backlash, the song became popular and to the present day, Lopez is constantly referred to as Jenny from the Block in the media.
On December 9, "All I Have" featuring rapper LL Cool J was released as the second single from This Is Me... Then. Not only did it become the album's second consecutive top-ten single in the United States, "All I Have" became Lopez's fifth and final song to top the Billboard Hot 100. The song also performed well internationally, ranking within the top ten of numerous charts. The song samples the 1981 track "All I Have" by Debra Laws. Laws later filed a lawsuit in 2003 against Lopez, LL Cool J and Sony Music Entertainment for "misappropriating her voice and name" in the song. More than three years later, the district court discovered that Law's music label had given Sony permission to use a 10-second sample of Law's song. The lawsuit was dropped, and Laws was advised to sue her own label and publisher for "breach of contract for entering a license agreement without her authorization".
According to Lopez, she initially didn't want "Jenny from the Block" or "All I Have" to be released as singles from the album. She felt that the tracks were too similar to her previous singles such as "Ain't It Funny" and "I'm Real"; she felt like she was "visiting old territory". "Those tracks were like a different era for me, and I didn't want people to perceive it like I'm just trying to capitalize on the same thing. But the record company was like, 'Who cares what they think, those are hits mama!'". Lopez, who stated she "calls the shots", eventually agreed.
On April 8, 2003, "I'm Glad" was released as the album's third single. Unlike its predecessors, "I'm Glad" failed to enter the top ten in the United States, while performing moderately in the international market. Its accompanying music video was a remake of the 1983 film Flashdance which was based on Maureen Marder's life, who was a "construction worker by day and dancer by night". The music video, described as a "homage" to the film, impressed the filmmakers and they began talks with Lopez about creating a re-make. However, Paramount Pictures threatened to sue Sony over copyright issues. A representative for Epic Records confirmed that this issue was settled. Marder also filed a lawsuit against Sony and Lopez which was quickly dismissed by the courts. That August, "Baby I Love U" was released as the album's fourth and final single, but failed to gain notable chart recognition.
This Is Me... Then was a commercial success, although not as successful as J.Lo. Released on November 26, 2002, the album debuted on the Billboard 200 at No. 6, with first-week sales of 314,132. This marks the highest opening sales week of Lopez's career. Despite its high sales, Rolling Stone noted that "unlike her previous releases, the field wasn't empty for this album to dominate". Throughout December, the album remained in the chart's top ten. For the week of January 2, 2003, the album remained stable in the top five, selling 233,000 copies. For the week ending January 18, 2003, This Is Me... Then made its biggest jump on the Billboard 200, climbing from No. 6 to No. 2, with sales of 88,000 units, blocked from finally reaching the top spot by Norah Jones' Come Away With Me (2002) which sold 108,000 copies. Throughout February 2003, the album continued to perform strongly, averaging close to 80,000 copies sold each week, while remaining in the top ten. Additionally, the album peaked at No. 5 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. By June 2013, Billboard's Gary Trust reported that the album had sold 2,600,000 copies in the United States; her third best-seller overall.
Internationally, the album entered the top ten of most countries. In Australia, the album debuted and peaked at No. 14 on the ARIA Charts for the week ending December 8, 2002. Commercially, this makes it one of her lowest-charting albums there. However, This Is Me... Then remained on the ARIA Charts until July 6, 2003, allowing it to be certified Platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association for shipments of over 70,000 units. In the United Kingdom, the album peaked at No. 13. This was nine positions lower than her previous album, J.Lo. It was eventually certified Platinum by the British Phonographic Industry, marking sales of over 300,000 copies. This Is Me... Then peaked at No. 5 in Canada, and fell to No. 8 the following week with sales of 17,900. In total, the album has sold over 200,000 copies in Canada, earning a double Platinum status in March 2006. In France, it debuted and peaked at No. 4 for the week ending November 30, 2002. After re-entering the French Albums Chart on multiple occasions, it made its final appearance on August 1, 2004 at No. 179. The Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique certified This Is Me... Then double Gold, with sales exceeding 320,000 copies. The album peaked at No. 4 in Germany and was certified Gold by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry for shipments of 150,000 units. In Greece, the album peaked at No. 1 and was certified Gold there for sales of 15,000 copies in 2004. Additionally, it peaked at No. 10 in Finland, and has sold 19,998 copies there. This Is Me... Then has sold over 6,000,000 copies worldwide, with one million sold in Europe alone.
|The Village Voice||(unfavorable)|
|Yahoo! Music UK|||
This Is Me... Then received generally favorable to mixed reviews from critics. Most complimented Lopez's change of musical direction in comparison to her previous works, as well as the music being made to accommodate her style. However, there was criticism, mainly towards its overtly romantic theme as well as the album's vocals. According to the reviewer aggreatator Metacritic which sampled nine reviews of the album, it garnered mostly "mixed or average" reviews. Writing for Billboard magazine, Michael Paoletta said that on This Is Me... Then, Lopez strives to establish herself as an artist of "more depth than previously displayed". He felt that she earned the respect she deserved, and "even naysayers will have to serve props to Lopez for the considerable growth she reveals as both a performer and tune-smith". Paoletta praised the album's blend of "streetwise hip-hop with enough old school soul references". Allmusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine gave the album a positive review, calling the feel of it "sexy, stylish, and fun, and there are numerous highlights, all feeling effortless". While Erlewine thought the title was "nonsensical and bewildering", he opined that this was the "strongest, sultriest, best music [Lopez] has recorded". He complimented its strong "urban soul vibe", which has a "solid set of songs and a sharp production pitched directly at the mainstream of 2002, yet with nice allusions to classic soul and early-'80s pop-funk and soft rock". Tom Sinclair of Entertainment Weekly stated "the girl has a way with hooks, even if they're often borrowed", and audiences are "seduced by the breezy pleasure of her new music".
Arion Berger of Rolling Stone, however, was not positive. Berger criticized the songs as being "pitched too high for her register", while calling the production "cheap". Berger also said her image had softened, "love has dulled whatever street edge she might have had". Similarly, The Village Voice's Jon Caramanica objected the album and its content. "Jennifer Lopez makes albums for the same reasons you and I give holiday gifts to people we don't exactly like: vanity and obligation," Caramanica wrote. He concluded: "This Is Me is like the gift you get from your grandmother—awkward, unwanted, and blindly self-righteous. Used to have a little, and still does". Slant Magazine's Sal Cinquemani on the other hand gave This Is Me... Then a favorable review, "Rather than rehash her previous hip-hop successes with Murder Inc., Jennifer Lopez makes a surprising step toward more adult-oriented R&B on her third studio album". He concluded that "This Is Me...Then manages to find the right formula for Lopez's slinky vocal and is more unified than its predecessors". Cinquemani felt that while her voice was best suited for dance-pop, "the album forsakes such pleasures for a richer, fuller sound. Lopez will no doubt earn a grain of respect from critics". Yahoo! Music's James Poletti gave also a positive review and a rating of 7/10 stars, "Lopez' voice frequently sounds a trifle thin accompanied by the sort of sounds that we're better used to hearing behind a Creative Source or Gwen McCrae vocal but the honeyed backing massages any real concerns from your mind. It remains to be seen what her present blissed-out state might do for J-Lo's on-set antics but here it has helped add more than a glimmer of humanity to this Latino Corporation".
On September 27, 2002 a spokesperson for Lopez revealed that she planned to take a break from acting to launch a tour in support of This Is Me... Then in April 2003. However, in late July 2003, Lopez clarified that these plans had been canceled.
This Is Me... Then received multiple awards and nominations. "All I Have" earned Lopez and LL Cool J an ASCAP Award, presented by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. The music video for "I'm Glad" was met with critical acclaim, and received multiple nominations at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards, including: "Best Female Video", "Best Dance Video", "Best Choreography in a Video" and "Best Art Direction in a Video". Lopez received three nominations at the 2003 Teen Choice Awards. "All I Have" was nominated for "Choice Music Single", while "I'm Glad" was nominated for "Choice Love Song". In addition, This Is Me... Then received a nomination for "Choice Music Album". At the 2003 Kids' Choice Awards, "Jenny from the Block" was nominated for "Favorite Song". At the Billboard Latin Music Awards of in April 2004, the Paul Oakenfold remix of "I'm Glad" won the award for "Best-Selling Latin Dance Single of the Year".
|This Is Me... Then – US standard edition|
|6.||"All I Have" (featuring LL Cool J)||
|7.||"Jenny from the Block" (featuring Styles and Jadakiss)||
|9.||"You Belong to Me"||
|10.||"I've Been Thinkin'"||
|11.||"Baby I Love U!"||
|12.||"The One" (Version 2) (bonus track)||
|This Is Me... Then – International edition (bonus track)|
|13.||"I'm Gonna Be Alright" (Trackmasters Remix featuring Nas)||
|This Is Me... Then – Repackaged edition (Disc 2)|
|1.||"Jenny from the Block" (Seismic Crew's Latin Disco Trip)||
|2.||"All I Have" (featuring LL Cool J) (Ignorants Remix)||
|3.||"I'm Glad" (Paul Oakenfold Perfecto Remix)||
|4.||"The One" (Bastone & Burnz Club Mix)||
|5.||"Baby I Love U!" (R. Kelly Remix)||
|Australian Urban Albums Chart||6|
|Australian Albums Chart||49|
|Belgian Albums Chart (Flanders)||88|
|Belgian Albums Chart (Wallonia)||86|
|US Billboard 200||12|
|US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums||26|
|United Kingdom||BPI||2x Platinum||600,000|
|United States||RIAA||2× platinum||2,500,000|
|France||November 25, 2002||Standard||Sony|
|United States||November 26, 2002||Epic|
|Japan||November 27, 2002||Sony|
|United Kingdom||March 22, 2004||Repackaged|
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