How Jennifer Lopez Masterminded That Ben Affleck-Inspired Album and Musical Movie

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When Jennifer Lopez started working on This Is Me… Now, she knew a lot of people wouldn’t get the full concept at first. Yes, she was planning an album that would be a direct sequel to her 2002 LP This Is Me… Then, an album she wrote when she was first falling in love with Ben Affleck, who she reconnected with and married almost exactly 20 years later. But she also wanted to pair the music with an out-of-the-box film that would capture the romantic journey she’d been on over the last two decades.

“I said, ‘I think I want to kind of maybe make a musical, but I don’t want it to be a visual album or a collection of videos. I don’t want to do anything that’s ever been done before. I want to do something different, new, special, one of a kind,’” she remembers telling director Dave Meyers. 

This Is Me… Now: A Love Story started taking shape. The film includes different scenes that revisit Lopez’s romantic ups and downs, including her previous three marriages, through a surreal, dreamlike lens. Lopez sings, dances, and even seeks advice from Fat Joe playing a therapist in this musical odyssey. In addition to Fat Joe, This Is Me… Now: A Love Story includes cameos from people that have worked with Lopez throughout her career, like Jane Fonda, Keke Palmer, Derek Hough. There are also surprise appearances from Affleck, Sofia Vergara, Post Malone, Kim Petras, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and spiritual leader Sadhguru. 

When she was bringing people onto the project, she asked them to put their faith in her. “I told them, ‘You’re going to have to trust me,’” she says. “They didn’t know what they were doing. That was kind of the biggest hurdle of the whole project. When you’re making something that’s never really been made before and you’re trying to explain it to people, it’s hard for them to imagine it. I told them as much as I could share with them: ‘I have this album. I’m making this story up. This is what’s going to happen.’” 

Both the film and album are out today, the latter marking Lopez’s first studio album in a decade. “It was a very big undertaking,” Lopez says. “[This Is Me… Then] was inspired by me falling in love at the time with the love of my life and I never thought I would get to have a second chance at that. When this strange plot twist happened, and we wound up back together, I was very inspired to go in and make this album and capture this moment in time.”

Still, it wasn’t meant to be a play-by-play of her current relationship. Instead, she wanted to open up to fans who’d seen her evolution over the years. “I think they’ve watched me fall down and get up, and make mistakes, and ‘why is she doing this?’ and ‘why is she with that one?’ and ‘why is this happening’ and ‘what’s this girl’s problem’ and all that kind of stuff,” she explains. “For me, it was about going, ‘There’s something bigger here that I can share about what I’ve learned in these past 20 years, and when I’ve been making all these records about love, and trying to figure that out.’”

To release the album, Lopez signed a recording and publishing contract with BMG last year. She enlisted her previous collaborator Brandon Riester as the A&R for This Is Me… Now. Even while she was balancing multiple other projects, he saw how committed Lopez was to her musical comeback and later making the film This Is Me… Now: A Love Story

“A small fact that a lot of people don’t know, but Jen’s in my phone as Jen the Juggernaut because she’s like an unstoppable machine,” he says. “She was filming Atlas and then during her breaks, she would go into a trailer with an engineer and record more vocals on this project to make it sound that much better. That’s the kind of dedication and devotion Jennifer showed to this project.”

Riester calls This Is Me… Now a “sister album” to its 2002 predecessor. The album revisits the R&B and hip-hop influences that Lopez was known for in the 2000s but that fit in today’s soundscape thanks to Rogét Chahayed. The hit-making producer has worked with Doja Cat, Kali Uchis, and Jack Harlow. While preparing for the album, Lopez brought in a gift from Affleck that she shared with her team in the studio.

“Ben had gifted her a book that had all of their correspondences, whether it was e-mails or letters, from the beginning of their relationship until present time,” Chahayed recalls. “We had a lot of those old conversations and stories between them to look into for subject matter. It made me feel from the beginning of the album that I was scoring a movie, and funny enough now there is a movie to go along with it. It just felt right in every way.”

Throughout the album, Lopez opens up about rekindling her relationship with Affleck. The funky and frisky “Can’t Get Enough” includes a telling sample of Alton Ellis’ “I’m Still In Love With You.” She touches on her secret marriage to Affleck in Sin City in the alluring “Midnight Trip to Vegas.” The most direct link to This Is Me… Then is her new ode to Affleck, “Dear Ben Pt. II.”

“I would describe this as my most honest, free, empowering, [and] loving era,” Lopez says. “When I started making This Is Me… Now, what I told everybody in the studio was, ‘Hey, this amazing thing has happened to me and I want to let people who have been through this with me know. I figured this thing out and I want to share it.’ There is such a thing as true love, and some things do last forever, and maybe it doesn’t have a perfectly straight road, but it’s real. Don’t give up on that because a life lived is really about love and the people that we share our life with.”

For the film, Lopez reunited with Meyers, who previously shot her music videos for “I’m Real” and “All I Have.” “I had a great creative partner in Dave Meyers because he had such an amazing imagination,” she says. “He’s such a visual genius. There’s no part of my imagination that he wasn’t able to stretch beyond its limits with how he helped bring this story to life. We started talking about all of the things that had happened. We just put it down on paper and we came up with this beautiful, surrealistic, magical story of a hopeless romantic and their journey through life and their search for love.”

Lopez also champions universal love in the film. In one scene, she breaks out of an abusive relationship through interpretative dance, surrounded by same-sex couples shown going through the same process. Throughout her career, Lopez has shown support to her strong queer following. Just last month, she surprised a J.Lo drag impersonator and joined them onstage at The Abbey in West Hollywood. 

“You know, my tití was gay,” Lopez says. “She was my favorite tití and she used to take me everywhere. That was always a big part of my life. When I started making music, I did feel a lot of love from the LGBTQ+ community always and I always gave them a lot of love. It’s just something I feel is a big blessing to have that following. They’re the most amazing and loyal fan base that you could have.”

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With her album out and the movie now streaming on Amazon Prime, Lopez is basking in the moment. After reflecting a bit on the past in these projects, she says she’s focused on her present and loving every second of it. 

This Is Me… Now is actually accepting who I am,” she says. “It’s saying, ‘This is me now! This is who I am and I embrace that fully with all the scars, mistakes, and all of the amazing accomplishments, and beauty, and all of the different things that are me. At this moment in time, I’m going to accept and love that person.” 

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