Genre R&B pop
|B-side "Let's Get Loud"
"Love Don't Cost a Thing"|
Released September 4, 2001 (2001-09-04)
Length 4:58 (Album Version) 4:21 (Murder Remix feat. Ja Rule)
"I'm Real" is the name of two songs recorded by American singer Jennifer Lopez, both primarily for her second studio album J.Lo (2001). The original version was released as the album's fourth single; Ja Rule of The Inc. Records (formerly known as Murder Inc Records) wrote and was featured on a new version of the song entitled "I'm Real (Murder Remix)", which was featured on a re-issue of J.Lo in July 2001, on Lopez's remix album J to tha L–O! The Remixes (2002), and Ja Rule's third studio album Pain Is Love (2001).
- Background and release
- Composition and lyrics
- Critical reception
- United States
- Oceania and Europe
- Music videos
- The original
- Murder remix
- Live performances
The original album version was well received by music critics, who complimented the '80s style and composition, while the remix received mixed reviews for its lyrics. However, both songs have been appreciated for the use of the samples.
The "Murder Remix" topped the Billboard Hot 100 for five non-consecutive weeks, beginning September 8, 2001, and also topped the Hot 100 Airplay chart. The two songs are essentially different songs with the same title. Much controversy followed the song after its release. Two music videos were made for the track, with the first depicting Lopez driving a motorcycle throughout the highway and featuring a dance-break, while the second video features Ja Rule and Irv Gotti.
Background and release
The original version of "I'm Real" was recorded by Lopez for her second studio album, J.Lo (2001) which had 14 other tracks. Released on January 23, 2001, J.Lo debuted at the summit of the Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 272,000 copies. The album was a commercial success. On July 24, 2001 (Lopez's thirty-second birthday) the album was re-issued, with a Murder Remix version of "I'm Real" written by Ja Rule included as a new track. The new version, which was also a single from the album, allowed the album to propel from the 90th position of the Billboard 200 back to the top 10 according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Following the release of "I'm Real (Murder Remix)", Lopez's personal sound had shifted away from a pure pop or R&B to more of a hip hop sound. Ja Rule praised Lopez while working with her on the track, stating "She's mad cool. She goes in, knocks the sh-- out, no problem [...] I love artists like that," and also said that her audience now wanted a different sound from her, "It's J.Lo now because of 'I'm Real' [...] It's gonna put her in another zone. After this one, they gonna be expecting hot crossover R&B joints from J.Lo. They ain't gonna want the pop version of J.Lo no more, they gonna want the 'I'm Real' version." Rule stated that he enjoyed working with Lopez, and that it was a "real collaboration" by saying "Sometimes when you do a collaboration with an artist it's not real collaborations [...] 'Send me a reel here. I'll fly it back here.' Me and J. Lo's record was a real collaboration."
Composition and lyrics
The original version of "I'm Real" was written by Jennifer Lopez, Troy Oliver, Cory Rooney and Leshan David Lewis, with production being handled by Oliver and Rooney. The "Murder Remix" received additional lyrics by Ja Rule, and Irv Gotti, while production was done by Gotti and 7 Aurelius. "I'm Real" is a pop and R&B song, also considered a "retro pop" and synthpop track. Lyrically, in "I'm Real", the singer offers voluptuous good times as long as her lover "don't ask me where I've been." While she brags that she's made him fall in love, a male voice chants, "She's a bad, bad bitch."
The song received mostly positive reviews from music critics. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic picked the song as one of his "track picks", noting that the song has "hook, but it needs a couple of spins before its catch holds". While saying that the song "sound like it's straight out of 1986", Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine called it "a retro pop track reminiscent of Janet Jackson's 'Control' era". Tom Sinclair of Entertainment Weekly called it "a chirpy little synth pop number", while CJB of UKMix called it "a commercial R&B tune for the dancefloors". Marvin van der Weyde also of UKMix named it "a very funky R&B/pop tune, and just as catchy as the remix version".
The "Murder Remix" also received favorable reviews from music critics. William Ruhlmann of Allmusic picked the song as one of the best from the album, while Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine called it "edgy, often sexy remix", naming it "a significant departure from the retro-hued album version". Ian Wade of Yahoo! Music wrote that "only the Ja Rule assisted 'I'm Real' and 'Ain't It Funny', that makes something vaguely special out of the original versions, Jen'd be better off just hooking up with him for good and they could become a Cristal-sipping, foulmouthed and bling-blinging Sonny & Cher." Marvin van der Weyde of UK Mix noted that, "you won't be able to get it out of your head. It's incredibly catchy, with great raps from Ja Rule, and a fantastic beat." While reviewing Ja Rule's 'Pain is Love' album, Soren Baker of Los Angeles Times noted that 'I'm Real' is "one of the album's stronger songs, as Rule's rough voice and Lopez's sugary tones make a surprisingly appealing blend".
"I'm Real" debuted at 66 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 on the week ending July 7, 2001, earning the "Hot Shot Debut of the Week" title and debuting on the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay at 55. "I'm Real" jumped to 40 in its second week on the Hot 100 and moved up to 32 on the Hot 100 Airplay chart. In its third week, the song continued to steadily increase, reaching 25 on the Hot 100 and 20 on the Hot 100 Airplay chart. By its fourth week, the song had reached the top twenty, fueled by increasing airplay. On September 8, 2001, "I'm Real" replaced Alicia Keys' "Fallin'" as the leader of both the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot 100 Airplay chart. It was the #1 song in the United States during the September 11th attacks. "I'm Real" spent the next three charting weeks at the summit and was subsequently knocked out of the top spot by "Fallin'", which boasted an additional three consecutive weeks at number one. After three weeks stalled at number two, "I'm Real" returned to number one again for a final two weeks, through October 27, 2001. "I'm Real (Murder Remix)" was a staple on R&B/hip hop and pop radio during the summer and fall of 2001, spending fifteen weeks in the top five of the Billboard Hot 100. In 2009 the single was named the 30th most successful song of the 2000s, on the Billboard Hot 100 Songs of the Decade. The chart position of the Murder Remix was boosted by radio play of the album track, which led to complaints of unfairness and change of Billboard policy in 2002. Afterwards, airplay of identically named songs but with substantially different melodies was not combined when computing chart positions. Lopez's follow-up was "Ain't It Funny (Murder Remix)", another Ja Rule-featured remix, which also reached number one on the Hot 100.
Oceania and Europe
Elsewhere, "I'm Real" was very successful. In Australia, the song debuted at No. 9, before moving to No. 6; becoming its highest peak. After weeks descending the charts, the song eventually climbed once again to number 6, remaining at number seven for two further weeks. Finally, the song climbed to No. 5, on January 6, 2002, before peaking at No. 3 the following week. It was Lopez's highest charting-single since her debut-single "If You Had My Love" (1999). In New Zealand, "I'm Real" debuted at number 44, before peaking at number 3 for two consecutive weeks, becoming her highest single from 'J.Lo' since "Love Don't Cost a Thing" and the album's third top-ten single.
In Europe, the song continued the success. In the United Kingdom, "I'm Real" became Lopez's sixth top-five single, reaching number 4, also becoming her fourth consecutive top-five single from the same album. In France, "I'm Real" debuted at number 90, on December 15, 2001. The song kept climbing, until it reached a peak of number 3, on January 12, 2002. It became her highest charting-single in France, until "Get Right" peaked at number 2 in 2005 and was certified silver by the SNEP.
The music video for "I'm Real" followed the release of the single in the United States. It depicts Lopez driving a motorcycle throughout the highway. The video also featured a cameo appearance by underwear model Travis Fimmel and Ja Rule and a dance-break (to "More Bounce to the Ounce" by Zapp) with Lopez's soon-to-be husband Cris Judd appearing as the lead dancer. The video for the Murder remix of "I'm Real" featured Ja Rule and Irv Gotti. It was performed at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards and won the award for Best Hip-Hop Video at the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards. Both versions were directed by Dave Meyers.
The original video for "I'm Real" begins with Lopez driving down a highway on a motorcycle, passing various smiling children, who stop what they are doing and run after her. Lopez is also seen at a gas station, where she stops and proceeds to walk into the town. Several more people gaze at her as she walks through the town, and she is later seen eating ice cream with children, until she gets back onto her motorcycle and drives back down the highway. A string of children are running after her, and the music stops as she steps up onto a stage set on a hillside; where she goes into a dance break. (These scenes feature Lopez's second husband, Cris Judd, as a back-up dancer.) For the rest of the video, Lopez continues to sing, dance and entertain the crowd on stage as the crowd watch in pleasure. The video also features a cameo appearance by Ja Rule.
A separate video clip was shot for the Murder remix of "I'm Real" featuring Ja Rule. It opens with Lopez leaning on a gate of a suburban house and singing in front of a red backdrop along with Ja Rule, who is also seen walking the streets, with a basketball. Males and females are then seen in various locations such as a park and swimming pool. Lopez and Ja Rule are then seen together in a basketball court in the chorus of the song. These locations are shown for a prominent part of the video, until both of them are later at a party; and sitting together at a park watching children play.
Lopez and Ja Rule performed the murder remix version of the song at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards. The song (original version) was included on the set list for her series of Let's Get Loud concerts in 2001, and later appeared on the Let's Get Loud Concert DVD. She sang the original version of the song on NBC's Today in the middle of the Rockefeller Plaza.
Despite the success of "I'm Real", there was controversy over the use of the single's sample and the structure of the song. The song contains an uncredited sample from Yellow Magic Orchestra's 1978 hit "Firecracker" (an electronic synthpop cover of Martin Denny's 1959 melody of the same name), while the remix on the other hand officially interpolates the Mary Jane Girls' 1983 song "All Night Long" as well as borrowing the melody from Rick James's "Mary Jane". There have been reports that the "Firecracker" sample was originally planned to be used for Mariah Carey's "Loverboy". According to the music publisher of "Firecracker", Carey called to license a sample of the song, which had never been sampled, months before Lopez called to do the same. Carey felt that former husband and music executive at Sony Music (Columbia Records), Tommy Mottola, was interfering with her career by arranging for the sample to go to Lopez. Upset by the conduct of Lopez and her ex-husband, Carey featured a reference to the song on the remix of her single "Loverboy", her first single released by her record company at the time, Virgin Records. The verse can be heard in Da Brat's rap section, where she sings, "Hate on me much as you want to / You can't do what the fuck I do / Bitches be emulating me daily" over the melody of "Firecracker". Irv Gotti, who produced the remix of "I'm Real" featuring Ja Rule, openly admitted during an interview with XXL magazine that Mottola contacted him with instructions to create a song that sounded exactly like a song he had made with Carey for the Glitter soundtrack entitled "If We", also featuring Ja Rule.
Furthermore, some in the African American community were outraged by Lopez's use of the racial slur "nigga" in the Murder Remix. She said "I tell them niggas, mind they biz, but they don't hear me, though." A free New York concert drew banner-carrying protesters, angry at the lyrics to her song I'm Real. In response to this, Lopez said in between performances "For anyone to think or suggest that I'm racist is really absurd and hateful to me. The use of the word in the song — it was actually written by Ja Rule — it was not meant to be hurtful to anybody." Ja Rule also responded to this, defending Lopez by stating "I think it's silly [...] I think the whole thing, like everything else, is being blown out of proportion." Rule said that Lopez was not the first Latino to use the word in a song, and that it hadn't been in an issue previously, adding it was something to let people get a chance to "poke her".