Jennifer Lopez's Saturday Night Live appearance as the host and guest performer this weekend just became much more important for the superstar actress and singer who confirmed this week that she is no longer signed to Epic Records, the music giant that released her debut album On The 6 in 1999.
In a statement released to Deadline.com Monday, Lopez said that she had a new label home. When Yahoo! Music contacted Lopez's manager for confirmation, Benny Medina responded in an email, saying that Lopez was in talks with various major labels.
A hosting and performing opportunity on Saturday Night Live is a premiere marketing and promotion vehicle for a new album and movie set up campaign.
While Lopez's new film, The Back-Up Plan, is still slated for an April release, the news of Lopez's departure from her Epic recording contract means that she will no longer release her Love? album in April.
As Lopez considers her options, record labels she is in talks with are likely doing the same. If her Saturday Night Live appearance is a repeat of her American Music Awards performance in November when Lopez fell on stage when singing her song "Louboutins," it could signal to prospective labels that Lopez is no longer a hot commodity in the music space, especially considering the success of her contemporaries Lady Gaga, Beyonce, and Rihanna.
Keith Caulfield, Billboard magazine's senior chart manager and analyst, agrees that there is a lot of pressure on Lopez to have a stellar showing on SNL.
"SNL can be a brilliant showing of work for everything she is as an actress, singer, and entertainer," Caulfield said. "If she comes out and hits her marks and is funny, engaging, sings well, and dances well, everyone is going to think, Dang, where have you been? I can't wait to see what the next thing is."
Lopez's departure from Epic sparked headlines claiming that she had been dropped, while Medina and a spokesperson from Sony confirmed with Yahoo! Music that Lopez's exit was at her request and amicable.
Still, the lackluster performance of Lopez's two most recent singles, "Louboutins" and "Fresh Out The Oven" featuring Pitbull, indicate that Lopez's new music was not connecting with fans.
Neither song impacted any of Billboard's airplay charts, Caulfield said.
Caulfield notes that only one of the two songs was an official release. "'Louboutins' actually was sent to radio soliciting for airplay. She did some performances on TV, So You Think You Can Dance, Ellen, AMAs. 'Fresh Out The Oven', to my knowledge, was never actually sent to radio. It was strictly a club single."
Emmanuel "E Man" Coquia, assistant program director and music director for Los Angeles' KPWR, agreed. Coquia said Lopez and Medina played him several new songs from Lopez's forthcoming album a few months back. He said Lopez described "Fresh Out The Oven" as an "alter ego record."
By comparison, Lopez's "Do It Well," the first single from her last album, 2007's Brave, peaked at No. 31 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart.
But Lopez's chart domination has been declining since 2004, Caulfield said.
Having a couple singles not react with listeners does not necessarily signal the end of an artist's music career. Caulfield said Beyonce and Rihanna have also experienced similar situations.
"Beyonce tripped up with 'Déjà vu' and 'Ring The Alarm,' and then suddenly [found a hit in] 'Irreplaceable.' Rihanna's 'Russian Roulette' didn't really do that well. There were three different singles. Sometimes, it's just about the right moment and song."
Both Caulfield and Coquia believe that a hit record is not out of the question for Lopez. They agree that Lopez, who has taken some time off raising her children, needs to reintroduce herself to music consumers.
"In this era, you could take off for three to six months to a year and people will tend to forget you," Coquia said. "Teens may not remember a lot of her old music. She needs to be more visible to fans. She can't be afraid to do shows, not afraid to do events with fans, she needs to be more assessable."