Party Like It’s 1999: Jennifer Lopez’s “If You Had My Love”

In Party Like It’s 1999, I’m marking my birthday June 25th by reviewing every Billboard Hot 100 #1 hit from my birth year 1999 along with other notable hits from the year.

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Jennifer Lopez- “If You Had My Love”

HIT #1: June 12, 1999

STAYED AT #1: 5 weeks

A fun thing many of us like to do when learning about our lives is looking at what the world was like when we were born. It could be what the biggest movie was, the biggest TV shows, the price of gas, the biggest news stories, how society was, etc. They all provide us with fun little tidbits that inform us of the world we first entered into that we have no memory of making it feel like some ancient civilization compared to the world we know growing up.

One of those aspects that is fun for me to look at is what the #1 song in America was the week I was born. Not that it means a whole lot but being a music fan and knowing the Billboard Hot 100 as a public record of what Americans are listening to, it’s interesting to see what song people were going crazy over the week I came into this world. The same goes for my family and friends. Sometimes you get the big classics while sometimes you get the forgotten footnotes.

Mine is more on the later. On June 25, 1999, as yours truly was born: the #1 song on the Hot 100 was “If You Had My Love” the breakout hit for entertainer Jennifer Lopez who had already made a successful career for herself in dancing and acting by the point she released her first single. It’s a song that’s so forgettable that Lopez herself didn’t perform it during her recent Super Bowl Halftime performance

It’s not like the #1 song the week Lopez was born is fondly remembered either. (That’s Zagar & Evans’ “In The Year 2525 (Exordium & Terminus)”) Growing up in The Bronx to Puerto Rican parents, Jennifer Lopez began taking an interest to show business at an early age. She took dancing and singing lessons starting at age five often performing at home. Lopez slowly began working her way through the business by acting in local musicals, trying out for movies, and becoming a backup dancer for big acts including New Kids on the Block and Janet Jackson including an appearance in Jackson’s music video for her 1993 #1 “That’s The Way Love Goes.”

Lopez soon got her first big break by joining the cast of the popular sketch comedy series In Living Color as one of its Fly Girl dancers. After a couple of seasons, Lopez left the show to focus on acting full-time first appearing as a supporting actress in largely forgettable films with big names including Woody Harrelson, Robin Williams, and Jack Nicholson. Her true breakthrough as an actress came with 1997’s Selena, a biopic where Lopez plays the titular late Queen of Tejano singer. (Selena never got a Top 10 single. Her highest-charting single, 1995’s “Dreaming of You,” peaked at #22.) The movie did modest business at the box office but critics raved Lopez’s performance. Shortly after, Lopez garnered more critical acclaim with her performance in 1998’s Out of Sight with George Clooney. Lopez was finally getting her career going but there was one area that Lopez hadn’t tried yet: music.

The success of Selena convinced Lopez to dive into a singing career recording a Spanish language demo that led to a signing with Sony Music with its chairman Tommy Mattola interested in making Lopez a full-on pop star. This was seen by many as risky since a bad album could not only embarrass Lopez but destroy her whole career as with other actors who’ve attempted a music career. Lopez herself had doubts about her singing talents and understood that her looks and acting were the main reasons for her signing. 

Those fears were proven unfounded as Lopez’s debut album, On the 6, was a Top 10 album-hit with her debut single “If You Had My Love” climbing to #1 a month after its release. The success furthered Lopez’s career and the Latin pop explosion happening in 1999 with “If You Had My Love” knocking out Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca” at the top spot though unlike Martin and the other Latin pop stars, Lopez didn’t have any music career or Latin audience to fall back on. It was a totally new thing for Lopez.

“If You Had My Love” came from four industry songwriters and producers: Rodney Jerkins (the guy who produced Monica’s “Angel of Mine”), LaShawn Daniels, Cory Rooney, and Fred Jerkins III. Jerkins was the one who initially came up with “If You Had My Love” creating its melody and production for Michael Jackson. As Rooney recalled to Fred Bronson in Billboard Book of No. 1 Hits, “Originally he had the groove for Michael Jackson and I heard it and said we should play around with it a little bit. We went in the studio and kicked it around, but Jennifer wasn’t too big on it. She wasn’t sure if it was for her. But then me and LaShawn Daniels wrote the lyrics and the melodies out for her, she jumped in the writing end of it. She really got into it, and we nailed it in one night.” 

Lyrically, “If You Had My Love” is a song about commitment in a relationship. On the chorus, Lopez is asking this guy if he would comfort her or be unfaithful if he truly loves her. Elsewhere, Lopez describes in vague terms of what she wants from him which includes no cheating and not being fooled, “You said you want my love and you’ve got to have it all/But if you want me, you have to be fulfilling all my dreams/I need to feel true love or it’s got to end.” 

Despite Lopez’s Hispanic background and her attachment to the Latin pop explosion in 1999, very little about “If You Had My Love” screams Latin. The team behind the song are R&B veterans and it shows as this song with its processed acoustic guitar, hip-hop drum beat, funky bass, and stabs of strings could have easily been done by late ‘90s R&B acts as TLC, Destiny’s Child, and the aforementioned Monica as music critic Chris Molanphy pointed out. This is further shown by its #27 peak on Billboard’s Latin Tracks chart.

As a whole, “If You Had My Love” is a pretty average piece of late ’90s R&B. Jerkins’ production sounds nice and well-made but it all whiffs by without leaving too much of an impression. But the real problem is Jennifer Lopez’s singing. It’s been well known that Lopez has never been an exceptionally great singer and it shows. On the song, Lopez’s voice is weak and thin to have any personality. You don’t get a sense of who she is as an artist which is weird as she is, after all, an actress. Her star power is the only thing holding up the song. If Lopez wasn’t as famous as she is now then “If You Had My Love” would have been easily forgotten. For a debut hit from an established celebrity, “If You Had My Love” comes across as a pretty unremarkable shrug.

In the video for “If You Had My Love” directed by Paul Hunter, we see Lopez in various voyeuristic Internet webcams being seen by many people in many places. Midway through, the song transitions into an out of nowhere Latin mix that completely throws off all direction before going back to the regular track. Perhaps it was Lopez’s people trying to appeal to the Latin audience. Between this and American Pie, a movie that came out during “If You Had My Love’s” time at #1, people in 1999 apparently had no problem watching hot women on webcams for voyeuristic pleasures. Considering how far we’ve come with the Internet, it’s a creepy thing to look back on.

“If You Had My Love” would be the start of a few years of pop dominance from Jennifer Lopez. On the 6 produced another Top 10 single in “Waiting For Tonight” a Latin club dance track that’s arguably one of Lopez’s best songs peaking at #8. (It’s a 6.) After that, she’d score three more #1s in the early 2000s going in a more R&B/hip-hop direction. This all while continuing her acting career and becoming more known for her high profile romances continuing to this day. And she performed with Shakira at this year’s aforementioned Super Bowl Halftime show. 

While I may not be all that excited about “If You Had My Love” being #1 the week I was born, it could be worse. At least it’s not Johnny Preston’s “Running Bear,” the #1 song the week my dad was born. 

GRADE: 5/10

BONUS BEATS: Drake sampled the chorus of “If You Had My Love” on his 2017 track “Teenage Fever.” Here’s the track:

(“Teenage Fever” peaked at #35. We’ll be hearing more from Drake in my The Ones of the ‘10s column.)