Among the certainties in this life are we’re all going to die, we have to pay taxes, and we should never write off a force of nature like Jennifer Lopez. Following her sizzling stint as a Fly Girl on the sketch-comedy show In Living Color, Lopez spent more than a decade as an in-demand star in hit films such as Selena, Out of Sight, and The Wedding Planner. She diversified her appeal with a string of albums that produced hits like “Love Don’t Cost a Thing” and “Jenny From the Block.” Yet last year her highly anticipated romantic comedy The Back-up Plan was released to disappointing box office and Lopez's single "Louboutins" failed to garner airplay and she was reportedly dropped from her label, Epic.
But you can’t keep a good Latina down. Lopez, parent to twins with her husband, entertainer Marc Anthony, has stepped into one of the vacant judging spots on the TV juggernaut American Idol. Last week Lopez debuted the video for her latest single, “On the Floor,” on the show and saw the catchy song (just try not to hum along to Lopez’s sample of the ’80s hit “The Lambada”) catapult to the top of the iTunes charts in the U.S. and nine other countries. Her next album, Love, is due this spring. While judging the competition series, Lopez, usually composed and unflappable, demonstrated a more emotional side than fans had previously seen when she was forced to eliminate Chris Medina, a fan favorite who was caring for a disabled wife. Lopez broke down in tears, as did many viewers.
Lopez discusses her chart-topping single “On the Floor,” the softer side she’s presented while judging on television, and whether an openly gay contestant can win American Idol.
The Advocate: Congratulations on your new single, “On the Floor,” becoming such a massive hit. But you’ll also be impressed to know that it’s currently my favorite workout song.
Jennifer Lopez: Honestly? That is so cool. We work out to the songs that we love.
Why do you think people are responding so favorably to the song?
I think “On the Floor” captures a feeling. It either hits home in your heart or it captures an energy that’s undeniable. There’re certain elements of this record that are very me — there’s an urban feel to the chorus, and the hip-hop that Pitbull brings to the verse, and there’s the melody. It takes you on a ride. Plus RedOne’s beats these days are undeniable. I’m so happy I got to work with him on this.
The singles you released last year didn’t do as well as expected, so how gratifying is it to see “On the Floor” hit the top of the charts around the world?
It’s awesome when you put out a record and people like it and you hear it on the radio for the first time. Those are the experiences that never get old.
While the song is undeniably catchy, especially that sample of “The Lambada,” how much credit do you give to your American Idol platform for making it a hit?
The song was doing so great, but when we debuted the video on Idol it just took it over the top. I think everything happens for a reason. We didn’t even plan to put the single out while I was on Idol. We didn’t know when it was going to be ready because I’ve been working on this album for a couple of years now. So things just happen when they’re supposed to happen. It was awesome.
What can we expect to hear on the rest of Love?
There are going to be more dance cuts. I really want this album to very much be me and who I am today. Not me from my first album. I’m a Puerto Rican girl who grew up in the Bronx listening to hip-hop and freestyle music. Those are my major influences. When you listen to any of my albums you hear that. But the new album is me today, in 2011. There’s dance, there’s an urban feel, a pop feel, there’re my Latin influences, as you can hear in the first single.
After Adam Lambert, a predicted Idol winner, came in second place a couple of years ago, a lot of people blamed conservative voters. Do you think America is finally ready to elect an openly gay idol?
I feel they would be. I really do think so. I think they vote for whom they like and who touches them the most. All different types of people are embraced on the show. We have gospel singers and country singers and rock guys. I think they’re open to vote for whoever performs something that touches the most people. There’s certainly a tendency toward a commercial, safer taste, but it could really be anybody. I think they would.
What’s been the toughest part of judging American Idol?
I knew I was going to have a great time. For the most part it’s a lot of laughs and great performances, but you go on this journey with these contestants, these kids who have so much riding on this. All their hopes and dreams are invested. I’m finding it harder to say goodbye to them and tell them they didn’t make it.
When you broke down and cried over having to eliminate Chris Medina two weeks ago, viewers saw a softer side of you.
Yeah, that was more of a surprise than I expected it to be. I’m an emotional person, but I’ve been in the public eye for so long that that I’ve always had to keep my composure, so breaking down in public isn’t something that people have seen from me. This is the first time I’m doing something like this. I’ve always had a song or lines in a movie, but this is the first time you’re really seeing me and seeing who I am for real. That’s fun for me.
If you were just beginning your career, which song would you use to audition for American Idol?
[Laughs] That’s funny. Let’s see. Back in the day I used to audition with “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” by Whitney Houston. I think I would do what I tell the kids to do, which is find something that really suits me and my style and go with that.
You've conquered film, music, and now television for the second time. Can fans expect to see you on Broadway in the future?
Yes! I started my career by touring with musicals. I loved musicals. I don’t know if I’d do a straight play on Broadway, but I’d love to do a musical. It’s funny that you ask that, because there is something that Marc and I have been talking about doing, but I can’t say what it is. [Laughs]
When can we expect to see you on the big screen again?
There are a few things I’m looking at right now. I think I want to either do a drama or a musical for my next film. I do eventually want to make another romantic comedy, but I’m in a position where I don’t have to make another film right now. I have the record coming and I’ll be in music land for while, so I’ll wait for the right script with the right director and the right part for me. I want a part that I can really sink my teeth into.
You’re now a spokeswoman for the Boys and Girls Club of America. Why is this organization important to you?
I grew up in the Boys and Girls Club. They had a great dance program, and it was one of the few places in the Bronx that had a pool. It was a safe place for kids to go. It offers all kinds of activities. It’s where I had my first real dance teacher and where I started dreaming and thinking about doing this as a career back when I was 13 or 14 years old. It really does cultivate dreams. It was a real honor when Denzel [Washington, the group’s longtime official spokesman] called and asked me to be involved.
Watch the video for "On the Floor" below.