Did Jennifer Lopez Really ‘Steal’ Her Hits? No, But It’s the Sexist Story That Sells
If you're an active Twitter user and pop music fan, you may have seen a particularly shady Twitter thread about Jennifer Lopez's music career pop up on your timeline.
The thread, tweeted by user @PallahAbdul this past Tuesday night (December 4), alleges all of Jennifer Lopez's biggest hits were "stolen" from another artists. But knowing how the pop music game works, we really wouldn't say J.Lo "stole" songs. It may be easier (and juicier) to paint the star as a devious diva or some kind of sinister song thief, but the truth exposes something darker.
The rumors and stories behind many of Lopez's hits are actually an eye-opening look behind the curtain of the male-dominated music industry. The reality is, for decades powerful male producers and label execs have played chess with artists' music and careers, often deciding who gets ahead and who falls off.
Let's break it down.
Already a famous actress at the time, Lopez released her debut single, "If You Had My Love," in May 1999, just ahead of dropping her classic debut album On the 6 in June of that year. The song was a hit, reaching No. 8 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart. The video, meanwhile, appeared on MTV's Total Request Live video countdown for months.
Before all of that, R&B singer Chanté Moore recorded "If I Gave Love," produced by Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins, for her third album. According to Moore, Diddy, who was working on J.Lo's debut album, heard her version and said he wanted the song for Lopez. Jerkins, unable to give the song away, allegedly created a new song for Lopez with a very similar sound. Moore initially intended to release her song as a single, but scrapped it once Lopez's blew up.
And we bet you didn't know Lopez's massive club hit, "Waiting For Tonight," is actually a remake of a 1997 album cut by short-lived dance-pop trio 3rd Party.
The story behind "Let's Get Loud," one of Lopez's signature hits, isn't very scandalous. Latin music legend Gloria Estefan originally wrote the song for herself, but thought it sounded too similar to her hits at the time, so she gave it to Lopez instead. Estefan eventually released her take on the song as a bonus track off her 2011 album, Miss Little Havana.
But did you ever wonder why Lopez and Mariah Carey allegedly have beef? Surprise! It's likely because of some mess a man created behind the scenes.
Allegedly, Tommy Mottola, Carey's ex-husband and head of Sony Music at the time, played a hand in finding out which samples and melodies Mariah was recording for her Glitter album (her first since leaving Sony) and had producers use the same samples/melodies on Lopez's tacks, beating Mimi to the punch.
Actress and pop singer-songwriter Christina Milian might be credited as co-writer of Jennifer Lopez's "Play," but did you know her uncredited vocals are on the song as well?
Milian says Mottola (yup, him again) heard it when she was recording it and said, "I want that song for Jennifer Lopez." It seems some of Milian's original vocals on the reference track made it to the final cut, with some even saying it sounds like Milian singing the entire hook.
Here's Milian talked about the situation in a 2016 interview:
Moving right along to the Murder Inc Records era: Remember when it felt like Ja Rule and Ashanti were all over radio in the early 2000s? This was around the same time J.Lo teamed up with Ja Rule for two hit remixes for "I'm Real" and "Ain't It Funny," helmed by exec and producer Irv Gotti. Well, Ashanti's vocals can be heard on both, uncredited. Ashanti sang the "I'm Real" remix demo for Lopez (before she was even signed) and later co-wrote and sang the reference track for the "Ain't It Funny" remix.
Everyone know's J.Lo's "Jenny From the Block." It's one of her trademark hits. Once again it seems, allegedly, that the final cut of the hit single contains vocals by another uncredited vocalist. Natasha Ramos sang the demo for Lopez, and it sounds as if they retained much of her original vocal take for the hook. You be the judge:
You probably remember Lopez's 2005 club-ready bop "Get Right," produced by Rich Harrison, but did you ever hear Usher's unreleased track "Ride"? Probably not. Usher co-wrote the track with Harrison and recorded his track over the same beat during sessions for his hit 2004 Confessions album. While it didn't make the cut, Usher later publicly voiced frustrations about J.Lo recording and releasing her version.
Last, but not least, Jennifer's 2011 smash "On The Floor" with Pitbull is said to have somewhat of a resemblance to singer Kat Deluna's 2010 song "Party O'Clock." Interestingly, both tracks were produced by mega-producer RedOne, so it's very possible he took what he created for Deluna and expanded upon it for Lopez.
While it might make for a click-y headline or tantalizing tweet to lazily label the stories behind these songs as Jennifer Lopez "stealing" songs or vocals, that just isn't the whole story.
Whether it was Tommy Mottola, Diddy, Rodney Jerkins, Rich Harrison, RedOne or Irv Gotti, in most of these instances, powerful men made behind-the-scenes power moves to accomplish something that paid off for them in some way. Sometimes it was for business reasons, sometimes it was personal (looking at you, Tommy).
It's also important to take into consideration what Jennifer Lopez brings to the table. Would most of these songs be as big or beloved had Lopez not released them? Jennifer's undeniable charm, personality and star power are often what bring her music and videos to life. It could be argued these factors are a big part of why the songs are the classic hits they are today.