Lisa Lisa - Life 'N Love (2009)

Lisa Lisa
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"Lost In Emotion." "I Wonder If I Take You Home." "Let The Beat Hit Em'." And who can forget the angst-ridden "All Cried Out"? For those of us who came of age in the 80's, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam, a trio from Brooklyn, NY and assembled by the artist/production crew known as Full Force,  were responsible for some of the era's catchiest and most diversified hits. Blending pop-friendly freestyle rhythms, chicano beats with Full Force's rich R&B melodies alongside Lisa Lisa's sultry soprano quickly crossed them over to mainstream consciousness while cementing her reputation as the Queen of Latin Hip-Hop.
As the 90's arrived and trends changed, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam found their chart success waning and disbanded to pursue other projects, but the  enterprising songstress forged ahead with the promising (yet poor selling) solo debut, LL 77 ("Skip To My Lu," "When I Fell In Love"), stage performances on and off Broadway and acting in the now-defunct Nickelodeon series, "Taina."  

The industry has undergone a complete metamorphis in the fifteen years since LL 77:  the producer is as much of a star as the singer is, the independent labels have all but rendered the majors extinct and a new set of performers have become successful after weaving elements of Lisa Lisa's unique artistry into their own (Shakira, Jennifer Lopez).  It's not hard to lose one's footing in the midst of such cultural turbulence, but Life'n Love , her second solo CD and first independent release, demonstrates that Lisa Velez, even as a married mother of two, still has the verve and the vocals to retain that lofty title.

After such an extended absence, most artists would be tempted to overstuff a CD with pointless filler or self-absorbed interludes and guest appearances, but Lisa Lisa doesn't go there: she stays true to her roots, injecting saucy Latin flavor ("Booyah," "Que Locura"), funk-fringes ("Rock Into Your Soul," "Feels Like Love," a cover of Sly and the Family Stone's "Stand"), dance and dashes of soul and jazz. As the title implies, the songs' themes run the emotional gamut: she expresses gratitude for a warm, yet weathered love affair in the twinking title track, conjures images of sunshine and butterflies in the giddy "Feels Like Love" and releases her inner temptress for "Gonna Make You Say." But on the flip side, she takes her heart back from a selfish lover in "Had Enough" and demands her wasted time and effort back in the crazy-catchy mid-tempo, "Refund" ("I gots to move on because the love is gone, gonna trade it in and get a better one, cuz' now it don't fit either one of us" ). "Rentengo Mi Emocion" offers the CD's most impassioned performance; even those who can't understand the lyrics will certainly comprehend the breathless ardor and abandon fueling the words.

Overall,  Life ‘n Love is a pleasant listen, but would have been a more rewarding one if the frothy, sugar-sweet redundancy of the tracks had more depth to them (think mostly treble and little bass) . And for those who've heard her robust collaborations with Full Force, Lisa Lisa's vocals sound overly-subdued here in comparison. But this innovator's occasional missteps can be overlooked, given the path she's blazed for others along the way.

By Melody Charles

 

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