This younger generation of artists, along with their producers, has created a new idea of pop—one that actively rejects the limitations posed by traditional notions of purity, authenticity, even musical talent. It's no accident that "On the Floor" is produced by RedOne, who worked similar syncretic magic with Lady Gaga, and features a rap by Pitbull, the blue-eyed Cuban-American rapper who, like Lopez, has long posed a challenge to old ideas of what hip-hop could be.
Within this new context, all the old insults Lopez endured seem less relevant. She's inauthentic? In a world where Ke$ha thrives, Lopez is old-school. She can't sing that well? That's why there's Auto-Tune. She's more a dancer than a singer? On the summer concert circuit, that will be a plus.
In the end, Jennifer Lopez remains what she's always been: an old-fashioned trouper, ready to take on whatever challenge offers her the best chance to capture the fickle eye and ear of the American public.
Performing "On the Floor" on Idol last week, she busted out her best glitter and fiercest glare, but as a hydraulic lift carried her above the Zumba-ish dancers sweating below her, she lost control for a minute—and smiled. You could almost hear her thoughts. I know how to work it. And in pop America, working it still sometimes pays off.
Thanks to Chris Molanphy for chart assistance.