It’s been a big week for Jennifer Lopez. Yesterday she released a new single, "Papi," while People magazine called her "The Most Beautiful Woman In The World." That’s in addition to her previous single "On The Floor" shooting into the top 10 – her best chart performance in nearly a decade. And of course, there's that whole judging American Idol thing… Yes, Lopez is owning the pop-culture conversation again, and she seems pretty okay with that, as a conversation with the star at a Los Angeles Best Buy – where she was promoting the Blackberry Playbook tablet and the pre-order for her new album, Love?, due out May 3rd –about famous exes, going Gaga and fellow Idol judge Steven Tyler made abundantly clear.
What’s that question mark about in the title of your new album?
Everybody asks, but everybody knows… If you’re married, you know what that question mark is about! [On the album] I wanted to stay true to who I am as a recording artist – with the dancing, and the attitude, and everything I bring to the table; in the lyrics, though, I wanted to really explore different questions I have about love. One song is called "What Is Love?," which is about the question a lot of people have: will I ever find my true love – will I ever feel that? "Starting Over," one of my favorite songs on the album, is about being in a relationship with someone whom you know is being unfaithful; it’s a complicated feeling, and we captured some of that and put it to great melodies. "One Love," meanwhile, is about if we can ever have one true soul mate.
"One Love" comments rather specifically about the men that you’ve been famously involved with romantically – not just current husband Marc Anthony, but also Diddy and Ben Affleck. That was surprising.
It goes through the major relationships in my life. I’ll be honest: when they [songwriting team APLUS and Bieber/Rihanna producer D’Mile] first wrote the song for me, it was very generic. I loved the idea, though, so I said, "Why don’t we make it more 'me’?" I sat there and wrote the verses with them, and we went through every major relationship I’ve ever had, asking the question, "Is there one love?"
Love? features two songwriting credits by Lady Gaga. How did that come about?
Lady Gaga did work on some of it, but we didn’t work together face to face. [Producer] RedOne brought her into the process, because they’d worked together a lot – it was kind of cool. She’s a great songwriter: I don’t just love her lyrics, but also her melodies.
Has being on American Idol made you re-think your own music career at all, constantly thinking about those people on stage singing for their life?
It hasn’t. It didn’t make me re-think anything, really: I kept doing what I was doing, and Idol just got added into the mix. I’m sure all those people watching doesn’t hurt! [laughs] But at the end of the day, it comes down to the music: either they like it, or they don’t. I’m just happy they like it.
So what have some of the toughest eliminations for you to endure on Idol?
Going from the top 40 to 24, that was very tough. I thought our top 40 was so strong – we let some really great people go. And then when we went from 24 to 13, that was really hard: there were two or three people I wanted to have given a chance to. There were some female singers – Lauren Turner, Kendra – that were amazing, and some guys like Robbie Rosen and Tiwan Strong that I hated seeing not being able to compete in the top 13. It was like, "Wow, we have to let some people go." And Pia [Toscano’s elimination] was a surprise. I didn’t think she’d go that early, I’ll say that.
What was your initial rapport with fellow judges Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson?
It’s funny: those guys and Ryan [Seacrest] – I really see us as a foursome – we just hit it off right away. There was a lot of mutual respect, and that respect grew into love; we’ve kind of become like brothers and sisters. They’re very protective of me, as I am of them. Our first press conference, this reporter tried to get out of line, and they were like "Hey! Hey! Hey!" I was like, "I love this!"
Are you shocked, along with the rest of America, at what comes out of Steven’s mouth?
Of course! I love how spontaneous he is, and that he has a colorful way about him, which adds color to the panel. He’s also a very deep and soulful person – the crazy mixed in with that is a beautiful combination.
So, who takes longer in the makeup chair – you or Steven?
[Laughs] I don’t know…