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The last time Jennifer Lopez made an album -- 2002's This Is Me... Then -- she was deeply love with actor/Academy Award-winning screenwriter Ben Affleck, a relationship immortalized in the video for "Jenny From the Block" and "Dear Ben," a ballad that rivals Billy Bob Thornton's "Angelina" as the greatest celebrity love song of the 2000s. Of course, the relationship was also immortalized in the notorious Martin Brest disaster Gigli, released eight months after This Is Me, and that film's abysmal box office was the beginning of the end for the couple, whose engagement was called off in early 2004. Lopez rebounded quickly with a marriage to Latin pop singer Marc Anthony and with the new romance came an opportunity to restart her career -- hence Rebirth, the title of her fourth album. While she doesn't avoid the subject of her highly publicized romantic life, she does bury two seemingly confessional ballads at the end of the record (not counting the album-concluding reprise of the opening single, "Get Right"). Voyeurs may find interest in "He'll Be Back" (a tune not written by Lopez, but a breakup song that certainly recalls the Bennifer saga) and "(Can't Believe) This Is Me" -- a collaboration with her new husband that suggests Lopez may not have learned the lesson of Gigli -- but they're easily the worst moments on an album that's otherwise a sleek, sexy blast. Apart from those turgid ballads, Rebirth is a straight-ahead dance album, alternating between sweet, breezy pop tunes like the irresistible "Still Around" and hard-driving club tracks like the surprisingly heavy, infectious "Cherry Pie." Lopez may not be a flashy singer, but she's appealing on record precisely because she and her collaborators -- chief among them executive producer Cory Rooney -- know those limitations and present them in tuneful packages with big, exciting beats. Since it doesn't deviate from the blueprint she's followed on her first three albums, it's hard to call this record a literal creative rebirth, but song for song, Rebirth has more energy and better hooks than her other albums. It may not be deep, but it sure is fun -- and after the tumult of 2003 and 2004, Lopez sure does deserve to have a little fun.
Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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