Interview: Jennifer Lopez Talks Objectifying Women, Having Fun in ‘I Luh Ya Papi’ Video
By Courtney E. Smith
Jennifer Lopez is jumping into the fray with her new single, “I Luh Ya Papi.” The clip, directed by Jessy Terrero (the man behind clips for Akon, Sean Paul and 50 Cent), takes on the objectification of women — specifically in ’90s era hip hop videos, although its opening monologue falls right into a conversation of the practice by the music industry as a whole. We chatted with J. Lo about if her aim was a parody or a political statement, how the men on set reacted to having the tables turned and what we can expect from her forthcoming album, due out on June 17.
Is this video more a commentary on the objectification of women in music videos or a send-up of the cliches we’ve gotten used to seeing in hip hop videos?
It’s a little bit of both. We’re doing it in a fun way, but you can’t help [create] a commentary. We have been watching women be objectified for years in not just rap videos but in rock ‘n roll videos, in every kind of video. It was a lot of fun to turn the tables and think about what the shots are that directors do every single time when there’s a girl in a video in a bathing suit [laughs]. It was meant to be a funny, tongue-in-cheek version of those kind of videos, but still beautiful. The song is called “I Luh Ya Papi,” so it only made sense to have a bunch of good-looking papis in the video.
You’re a writer on the song and the lyrics reference your body. It’s kind of in opposition to the video concept. Did that come into play when you were putting the video together?
The director, when heard the song, he felt like the style of how I was doing the song was like a rap video. He was like, “You’re rap-singing on the verses. This is the closest you’ll ever do to a rap song.” And it is talking about loving that person, but I always saw the song as very tongue-in-cheek as well. It’s like how guys treat girls, like, “Oh yeah, I love you. I didn’t see it before. I love you. I luh ya!” So it’s like, yeah I’ll put it down on you but then that’s it. [laughs] It was very empowering in a sense, and so the song is very cheeky as well if you really listen to it.
Last summer was, amazingly, all about the objectification of women — from Robin Thicke to Miley Cyrus. Do you want to continue or change that conversation? What are you trying to do with this video?
I think it was time for men to see what it was like. And this video, on the set as well, made people a little uncomfortable. It was funny to see that. Even though the treatment was the director’s idea, when we were doing the scene where they wash the cars, right? You’ve seen this scene a million times with girls. They’re in a bathing suit, they’re pouring water on themselves — you’ve seen it in movies even. You’ve seen it everywhere. They’re pouring water and suds all over themselves, they’re rubbing their boobs on the car, the whole thing. When we were doing this with the guys, the crew, the director — and he’ll admit this too — and the guys who had to do it after one take were like, “Well I think that’s enough. I think, you know, that’s cool.” I was like, “No!” Because if a girl were doing this right now, we’d be shooting it for an hour! Meanwhile we’ve done one take and you’re like, “That’s good.” I was like, “No, it’s not good! Rub your butt on the car!” It’s supposed to be funny, people have to get the joke, but they also have to see what it’s like. How absurd it is to do things like that. I asked the guys, “You feel absurd right now? Yes? Good, then we’re doing it right. Now rub your chest on the car and let’s go.” [laughs]
For me it was like, I just wanted them to see what it feels like. I wasn’t trying to have some big political conversation about it, but I am trying to say think about what you do.
I always wondered on the sets of those videos, how did the women keep a straight face while they tried to do this stuff.
It’s hard! If you look at some of the old videos and you see guys pouring champagne on the girl, you can see her wincing a little bit like, “I hate this right now. Why are you doing this to me?” But they have to smile and keep dancing, bouncing around in their bathing suit. [laughs] It’s crazy. So, it was about that. It was done in a fun spirit, because I’m not the type to try and push all the buttons but I like to say a little something, in a way where people can hear it.
Right off the top of the video we get this costume callback to your infamous Versace GRAMMYs dress. Was that planned? Are there any other throwback visuals we should be catching?
Not really. It wasn’t meant to do that. We were shooting the video down in Miami and I thought to myself, “In those videos, those classic rap videos, they always wore Versace.” Like those big Versace shirts and prints. So I was like, “Make sure we get some Versace!” And when they got it, they bought that and they had the jungle print there, which is what that design from that dress is called. I was like, “What’s that doing there?” And they were like, “No, this is in the store right now!” It just fit perfectly with the concept and I thought it would take everybody back to those old Jenny from the Block days, that whole era of those type of videos. So we just went with it.
A lot of people are saying this is a strong, out of the gate contender to be a song of the summer. Is that the kind of thing that is a consideration when you’re picking or writing a song?
Sure! When we go to release something, we have 15 or 16 songs and you ask, “Which one do you come with first?” I always feel like it’s good to start with something that’s fun and light, especially when you’re going into summer. We have a follow-up to this that we feel, again, fits in with summer. And you use that to start ramping up to what the album really is.
You worked with Detail on this song, he produced it. How did you two hook up?
I think I heard the song first. It was sent to me and Corey Rooney, my producer, played it for me. I loved the beat, I loved the sound — the sound is fresh. Then Detail and I met to do the vocals.
I loved working with Detail. He’s a crazy artist, he’s passionate about music. He’s in the scene right now — you know he does a lot of stuff for Wayne and Drake. I felt like it was a great renewed energy for me to work with somebody like him. He was very specific about how he wanted me to sing it. We did more than one track, he did another track on my album as well, called “Worry,” which I really love. It’s almost got a mid tempo, ballad-y feel to it.
What can you tell me about your new album?
I can tell you that I went on my first world tour, came back and went right into the studio. I was really inspired. I feel like I came back a better performer, a better vocalist and with a better understanding of how your music touches people. Since it was my first world tour, my music was really informed by that. I also went through a big transition in that year, had been through a lot of pain. I grew and learned a lot. I was thinking a lot about life and emotions and how I felt and things that had effected me. All of that came out in the music. I feel like it’s a stronger, more experienced — I feel like I’m still the same girl I was, and it’s still the same type of music, but at the same time it’s all evolved a little bit. And I think people are going to hear that, I really do.
As an artist, do you expect your audience to grow with you?
Absolutely. They grow up with you. The ones who were with me when I did “If You Had My Love” are still with me. And you pick up some along the way, the ones who came in on the J. Lo album or the Rebirth album or who came in while I was doing American Idol and the “On the Floor” era. They’re looking to grow and change and they’re evolving, their lives are changing. As an artist who they look up to, they expect you to reflect that in what you’re doing because it mirrors their lives, in a sense. They need you to be truthful. They need you to be honest. That’s what I try to do when I make my records. I think this record, more than any other record, is a true presentation of who I am, of owning everything I am: the good, the bad, all of it. I’m a pop artist, I make pop songs but at the same time I’m a very heartfelt person. I make very emotional songs as well. I do hip hop, I do pop, I do R&B. I do all of it and I mix it all into a bag. All of that is what they expect of me and they expect it to be honest. And that’s what I try to do.
You’re debuting “I Luh Ya Papi” on American Idol [on Thursday, March 20]. The last time you performed on the show was a huge spectacle. Should we expect that again?
I don’t think it’s a spectacle this time. Last time was “On the Floor,” I think. No, it was “Goin’ In” on the finale. It was one of those. [laughs] This is a little bit more pared down, just to give you a little preview. But you’re going to have to tune in to see. I’m going to put a little surprise in there, at the beginning. This is a more vibe-y, swaggy kind of hip hop record. It has a different feel to it.