Want to feel old? Jennifer Lopez’s career-defining album, J.Lo, released in January 2001, turns 20 years old this month.
To celebrate the milestone, the flawless 51-year-old took to the gram and recreated the beach scene from her memorable “Love Don’t Cost A Thing” music video. Stripping off a winter white coat, blinged out jewels, oversized shades and graphic tee, the mom-of-two gave us major déjà vu.
“Happy 20th Anniversary to my 2nd album J.Lo!!!! Had a little fun at a recent shoot,” she captioned the video.
“As I reflect on the fact that it’s the #JLo20thAnniversary, I just wanted to say thank you to all of you for being with me, loving me and supporting me through all the ups and downs,” she continued on another post. “Thank you so much for all the love over the past 20 years!! I love you so much!!”
So what is it about the J.Lo that makes it so relevant two decades later? When Lopez released her debut album, On The 6, in 1999, she joined an elite group of actors to successfully cross over into the music industry. Inspired to pursue a music career after playing Selena in the musical biopic, the New York native rode the popular wave of hot Latin artists along with Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias, and Marc Anthony. On The 6, a reference to the New York subway line, produced the number-one hit “If You Had My Love,” as well as “Waiting for Tonight,” which reached the top ten in the United States.
Sure, Lopez was juggling two successful careers, but it wasn’t until her second album, simply titled J.Lo, released in January 2001, that she was catapulted to icon status we know today. The stage name served as a “reminder that the mainstream success had not affected her connection with her roots,” according to Boombox. Several artists later followed this trend, such as Janet Jackson with her 2004 album Damita Jo and Mariah Carey with her 2005 The Emancipation of Mimi in 2005.
“My fans call me J.Lo. Giving the album this title is my way of telling them that this is for them in appreciation of their support,” she said ahead of its release in January 2001.
The same week the album opened atop the Billboard 200, Lopez’s feature film, The Wedding Planner debuted at number one at the U.S. box office, after grossing $13.5 million during its opening weekend. This made Lopez who, with a $9 million paycheck, was the highest-paid Hispanic woman in the history of film, the first entertainer in history to have a number one film and album simultaneously in the same weekend.
J.Lo was a primarily dance-pop and R&B album that encompassed Latin pop, retro, and contemporary pop. Drawing from her own experiences, Lopez included more personal songs on this album than her previous that dealt with themes of relationships, empowerment, and sex. The album’s premiere single, “Love Don’t Cost a Thing,” ushered in a new glamorous era for Lopez. The song’s splashy music video, directed by Paul Hunter, featured Lopez ripping off her diamonds, throwing away the keys to her Bentley and then frolicking on the beach after her wealthy lover stands her up once again. Cris Judd, who later became her second husband, appeared as a back-up dancer. The two become close during the video’s production and soon began a relationship after Lopez split from Sean “Puffy” Combs.
Her next single, the dance bop “Play,” was released was accompanied by a super stylish futuristic themed music video featuring J.Lo dripping in designer duds including a memorable outfit with long fur coat, short shorts, over-the-knee boots and wool floppy hat. The album’s third single, the Latin inspired, “Ain’t it Funny,” didn’t make waves in the U.S., despite a dramatic music video directed by fashion photographer Herb Ritts, but it was a smash hit overseas.
In addition to the English tracks, J.Lo includes the Spanish songs “Cariño,” “Si Ya Se Acabo” and “Dame (Touch Me).”
In July 2001, J.Lo was reissued with a Murder Inc remix of one of its original singles, “I’m Real.” The R&B murder remix of “I’m Real” was written by rapper Ja Rule, who also features on the track. According to Rule, he initially was “just f***ing around” with the track after Lopez’s team gave it to him to remix, but it turned out to be “a hell of a record.” The song, which was number one in the U.S. for five non-consecutive weeks, shifted Lopez’s musical style from pop to a more hip hop and urban-oriented sound. Complex wrote that the track led to her “embracing hip-hop adjacent vibes, an aesthetic she’d stick with for the early part of the decade.”
The “I’m Real” remix also spawned one of Lopez’s most iconic music video looks of all time. Taking street-style to a whole new level, the brunette beauty appeared alongside Ja Rule in a pink Juicy Couture zip-up hoodie and matching terrycloth short shorts. The look spawned an army of copycats and became synonymous with the decade.
Twenty years later, J.Lo remains the most commercially successful album of Lopez’s career, having been certified quadruple platinum in the U.S.. In the year after its release, the album was also the springboard that took Lopez from performer to mogul as she launched her J.Lo by Jennifer Lopez clothing and accessory company, launched her first fragrance Glow By J.Lo, and opened her restaurant, Madre’s . It also marked the time paparazzi really began to take notice, following her budding relationship and then marriage to Judd and previewing what would come to be Bennifer the following year.
“She’s an icon — an important one. And J.Lo, with the reverberating impact it made, was a vital stepping stone in that path,” wrote MTV News. “Because of that album, those three letters are forever embedded in the vernacular of contemporary pop culture.”