Welcome to this week’s instalment of The Story of Pop: 2002, our weekly revisit of all the biggest UK chart hits from twenty years ago. The series is into its last few chapters now – but we’ve still got plenty more iconic belters and artists to cover, this week’s featured lady included…
- Artist: Jennifer Lopez
- Song: Jenny From The Block
- Released: 18/11/2002
- Writers / Producers: Jennifer Lopez / Troy Oliver / Andre Deyo / Samuel Barnes / Jean Claude Olivier / Jose Fernando Arbex Miro / Lawrence Parker / Scott Sterling Michael Oliver David Styles / Jason Phillips / Cory Rooney / Poke and Tone
- Highest UK Chart Position: #3
- Weeks on Chart: 13
In the space of three years, Jennifer Lopez had ascended rapidly from burgeoning actress crossing over into music – as she did with her 1999 debut “If You Had My Love“, and subsequent other hits like “Waiting For Tonight” and “Love Don’t Cost A Thing”, into, quite simply, one of the most famous women on the planet.
In fact, the Latina superstar’s success was such that, by 2002, she was not only consistently topping the charts across the globe – that year had seen the release of her massive selling remix album J To Tha L-O! – The Remixes – but she was also a box office success in films like The Wedding Planner and Maid In Manhattan. She had her own fragrance, Glow, and her own clothing and beauty line. She was also the most searched for person on the internet. She even had a restaurant, Madres, in Pasadena, California.
And couple this with her every move, outfit and career achievements being followed under the intense glare of the world’s media spotlight, and for a moment in time, the world truly had gone J.Lo mad. However, it was only a matter of time, with such heightened interest and huge success rolling in conjunction with one another, that they would end up rubbing against each other the wrong way, particularly with a media culture that still, as toxic as it was then, focussed on tall poppy syndrome – as she was about to find out.
There was no getting away from the fact her love life almost seemed to attract twice as much coverage as the source of her actual fame. By this point in 2002, she had been twice married and divorced, first to Cuban waiter Ojani Noa, then to her dancer Cris Judd. And of course she had memorably dated Puff Daddy for a short time in the early 00s. So when she started dating Hollywood superstar actor Ben Affleck, the tabloids and gossip mags promptly went crazy.
And if there was any sure sign that Bennifer – as the press christened them – were the real deal, then J.Lo confirmed it through her music. Her third studio album, This Is Me … Then, was largely inspired by her new found love – there was after all, a song on it called “Dear Ben”, but she also wrote in the thank you notes for the album to him, saying, “You are my life … my sole inspiration for every lyric, every emotion, every bit of feeling on this record”.
By the time its release was being readied in November 2002, they had got engaged. All of this happening at the one time was lighting flames of a backlash, which duly arrived as much as congratulations were being offered to the hottest new couple in town. However, to those offering accusation that she had lost sight of her roots and wasn’t grounded in reality (which seemed to be a constant theme of the continued interest), J.Lo responded pointedly with the album’s first single.
At once a reflection on her rapid ascent to her level of superstardom over the previous few years (“From In Living Color, to movie scripts / To On The 6, to J.Lo, to This…”) as it was a reaffirmation that she remembered what she was doing it all for (“Love my life and my public / Put God first and can’t forget to stay real (deal) / To me it’s like breathing”), the old school hip hop inspired belter “Jenny From The Block” drove the message home in its earworm chorus: “Don’t be fooled by the rocks that I got / I’m still, I’m still Jenny from the block / Used to have a little, now I have a lot / No matter where I go, I know where I came from (From the Bronx)”.
For the first time in her career, she had delivered a single which, whilst answering her critics, was also giving them yet more ammo. But you sense that J.Lo was in a position where she was damned if she did, and damned if she didn’t, particularly being both a woman and a Latina in the public eye, and especially so in regards to the promo video for the song, in which Ben Affleck featured highly which was again, criticised heavily. But her tenacity to persist in spite of such criticism was what made her accessible.
And the record buying public was what really mattered at this point, and they continued to speak in the affirmative, when it climbed to #6 over on the Billboard charts in the States. When unleashed from the traps in late November in the UK, “Jenny From The Block” debuted and peaked at a respectable #3 – no less than her eighth top 10 hit in this country, staying on the chart for a little over three months to make it one of her most popular singles.
And whilst the press backlash towards J.Lo would sadly continue to feel it’s effects into 2003, even as more singles from the This Is Me … Then album (“All I Have” with LL Cool J and “I’m Glad”) charted, when both Jennifer and Ben starred alongside each other in the critically mauled film Gigli – and growing tensions would see to them calling off their engagement and parting ways, twenty years later and things have come full circle. Jennifer is as popular as she’s ever been – since 2002, she had a further two worldwide chart toppers, including here in the UK, with “Get Right” and “On The Floor”, and Bennifer, as they were dubbed, have reunited and are now married as of earlier this year. We do love a happy ending…
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