Jennifer Lopez’s This Is Me… Then is the most pleasant surprise of the bunch of diva offerings — Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey have also come out with new albums. It’s a spacious-sounding affair that eschews the heavy-handed production that marred her first two efforts; the vibe is more Minnie Riperton than Missy Elliott. Working with a variety of producers, Lopez cowrote most of the songs, and while no one’s likely to confuse anything here with high art, the girl has a way with hooks, even if they’re often borrowed: ”The One” is built around the Stylistics’ 1971 hit ”You Are Everything,” while ”Baby I Love U” utilizes the haunting melody from the theme from ”Midnight Cowboy.” A high-spirited LL Cool J guests on ”All I Have” (which samples Debra Laws’ 1981 ”Very Special”). Lyrically, Lopez sticks mostly to romance, even penning a starry-eyed paean to fiancé Ben Affleck (”I love you/You’re perfect/A manifestation of my dreams”). Some will speculate that ”Still,” a song to a departed lover, is an open letter to Diddy, but that’s as scandalous as things get. On ”Jenny From the Block,” Lopez insists that fame hasn’t changed her, and seduced by the breezy pleasure of her new music, we’re almost inclined to believe her.
We gave it a B