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Rachel Devitt

Source Material: Jennifer Lopez, "On the 6"

Source Material: Jennifer Lopez, "On the 6"


Between her stint on American Idol, her perpetual perch on the charts and her wild extra-musical/personal life, it's almost impossible to imagine pop culture without Jennifer Lopez. But once upon a time -- a mere 13 years ago -- Jenny from the Block was only a former Fly Girl-turned-very-successful actress and widely acknowledged hottie. Moonlighting as a pop singer, however, was always her dream, and with her 1999 debut, she not only made that dream a reality, but flaunted the star wattage to do far more than moonlight.

Now, Lopez has never had the most spectacular voice, and we won't lie to you: It's at featherweight status on On the 6. But what she clearly does have in spades is an understanding of what makes for a good pop song. First, you need personality, and well, that goes without saying: La Lopez sasses and romances, sizzles and swoons. Second, you gotta have a little something personal for the fans to grab onto. Lopez named the album for the subway route she rode to and from her home in the Bronx, included covers of songs by touchstones like Diana Ross, and worked in Spanish lyrics and Latin rhythms at a time when that wasn't quite as common. Oh, and further blurring the line between the personal and public, the album features work by her boyfriend at the time, the artist formerly known as Puff Daddy. (Future hubby Marc Anthony shows up too, actually.)

Finally, any pop star worth her weight in platinum keeps her finger on the pulse of current trends, and make no mistake, JLo has got a well-manicured index finger on everything from house-inflected dance music to salsa-pop, from East Coast street rap to hip-hop-infused R&B. Besides a solid debut and a showcase of her ambition to reach for the stars, On the 6 also functions as a kind of archive of the state of late-'90s pop. So we declared it a heritage site and went digging. Get all tangled up in La Lopez' roots with us, won't you?

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