Jennifer Lopez has a handful of memorable "firsts;" From her first star role in "Selena" to her first studio album, "On the 6" (June 1999), both of which were wins for Latinos and catapulted her to stardom. It was only right to award JLO with this year's Icon Award at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards.
On her eighth studio album, "A.K.A.," out June 17, JLO delivers engaging soundscapes, with love at the helm yet again.
"If you listen to my albums, they were always about love. It was always love in a certain way: A fairytale type of way; I was hoping, praying, and wishing for that," JLO said at a private listening session in Malibu on April 25. "I realized love is completely different than I thought it was. I still believe in it more than ever. I'm still singing about it on every track, but I want it in the right way."
After the session at Los Angeles' Nikita Malibu, JLO sat down with The Juice to discuss "A.K.A." and reflect on her memorable firsts.
You mentioned during brunch that you've gone through a transition before recording "A.K.A."
"It's been a transitional couple of years for me. After I left '[American] Idol' the fist time, I went through the break-up with Marc [Anthony] and then I decided to take on a world tour for the first time. It was an experience; A physical and emotional journey. When I got back I realized, 'Wow I survived all of that and I'm okay. I'm actually better and stronger than I thought I was. I need to get back in the studio.' Everything that I learned about myself and [about] love is what this album became."
One thing I admire is that you come off as someone who loves fearlessly...
"I am fearless with love; You have to be. You can't be afraid to fall and try again; That's not just in love, that's in life. You have try and keep pushing. It's not an easy road but you have to keep going every day. You're almost there and all of a sudden you're there. I feel the same way about love; You have to keep pushing through and eventually there will be light."
Tell me about your second single, "First Love."
"We – Max Martin, Cory Rooney, me, everyone – were all talking about relationships, what they're like, how hard work they are, and how it could have been so much simpler if 'the one' was the first one."
"We talked about it and he (Martin) came back and said, 'I have the song!' I remember I was working on 'Idol' and Max and Cory came on to the set and said, 'You have to hear this! It came out of what we were talking about.' He went in and did it the next day."
"Those are the best songs for me, the songs that capture an emotion in a couple of words.It's one of the best love songs that I've heard in a long time, for me. The music takes the words to another level."
What's your most memorable "first?"
"Professionally, it'd probably be being the first [person] to have a movie ['The Wedding Planner'] and an album ['J.LO'] go no. 1 in the same week. And of course, personally, would be my babies. How can you top that?"
This year marks the 15-year anniversary of your first album, "On the 6." How was that "first" looking back now?
"It was a great process. I was working with Corey [Rooney], who 15-years later is still with me. Everything was so new to me: I had never been in the studio. I had never recorded music. I had only sang at shows and plays. It was one of those things where ignorance was bliss. I knew I was making an album, but you're so young it's not hitting you how big it is. I remember going back and doing the vocals over and over again. I was a perfectionist about it. Everything went from there…"
"On the 6" features your first rap collaboration, with Big Pun and Fat Joe. Before you worked with Ja Rule, Fabolous… It was Pun and Joe."
"It's family. Joe and I just did a record the other day, for him. He asked me to do some record. I recorded it and sent it back to him. It's become family, where whatever they ask, you just do it. It's a long-standing relationship."
"In Living Color" was not only my introduction to you but it was your first high-profile gig.
"I loved 'In Living Color.' They brought me out to LA and I immediately started taking acting classes while I was on 'In Living Color.' It changed my life 'cause I was just a Bronx girl dancing at that point. When they came and did that big audition in New York City looking for a fly girl, my boyfriend, this guy who was also a dancer told me, 'They have a few black girls, a blonde girl and an Asian girl, you know they're looking for a Puerto Rican girl, a Spanish girl!' [Laughs] I went and auditioned then flew out to LA where there were another thousand girls. It changed my life because when I flew out to LA it put me right in the middle of the business. I started auditioning and acting…"
"Selena" came a bit after that. It wasn't your first role, but it was your break-out role…
"Oh yeah! 'Selena' was my first star role, it was the first time a Latina got a $1 million dollars for a role which was a huge deal; It was a win for us. I sunk my teeth into it. I was so obsessed with learning everything about her, every little nuance. I wanted to know who she was. It was such a great role but it was also such a great team: Greg Nava, all the actors, especially James Olmos. We became a family, til this day."