36. ‘Play’ by Jennifer Lopez (2001)


The story goes that, in the early 2000s, J.Lo robbed Princess Di of her title as “most photographed woman in the world”. I’m not sure what happened in the intervening years between Di’s death and J. Lo’s swerve into pop music; I can only assume we – as a mark of respect – stopped photographing women altogether. For what was the point of women anymore! They had reached their pinnacle! [candle/wind emojis]

Anyway, the important thing is that we could not get enough of looking at the exquisite squareness of J. Lo’s face and breaking into fevered Antiques-Roadshowing of her posterior (in a huge payback win for the British establishment, Pippa Middleton would ultimately snatch back the trophy for Most-Feverishly-Discussed-Lady Arse-in-The-World in 2011).

For a generation of white Brit teens, J. Lo was our first introduction to the concept of Latin women. Before J. Lo’s ascent, the closest I had come to this revelation was an old photograph of my sister piled high with a fruit medley, ostensibly dressed as Carmen Miranda for a party. Not that our vast exposure to J. Lo did much to broaden our horizons, of course. She was still subject to gauzy fetishising and, like “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”-era Whitney, her ethnicity was simultaneously effaced and hinted at just enough.

What’s notable is that, as much as J. Lo’s image was whitewashed, her actual music – unlike with Whitney – had to reckon with the fact that black music was popular now! Her first album, confident in the re-novelty value of an Hispanic superstar, wavered between Latin-tinged ballads and balls-out Estefanny floor-fillers. By album 2, clearly, people had lost confidence, and so we had J. Lo insisting upon her realness and her non-costliness, throwing on shades and pretending that hip-hop vernacular came naturally to her. This inauthenticity wave crested with the notorious (but actually fucking great) “Jenny from the Block”.

An oasis in all this nonsense was “Play”, which remains one of the freshest and most futuristic-sounding MTV heavy play tracks of its time, even if that’s as simply accomplished as whacking a wiping-a-clean-window sound effect into the mix every other beat.

The precision in that window-wiper sound effect is echoed in the simplicity of the lyrical throughline: J Lo likes a song; she wants to hear that song in a public space; she will straight up murder you if you don’t play that motherfucking song.

BONUS POINTS: Let’s be clear. J. Lo is not about to be reasonable, or take other patrons into consideration. ALL NIGHT LONG is how frequently she wants to hear that motherfucking song.


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