ROBYN'S REVIEW:

By: Robyn Barnette




PERFORMER: JENNIFER PENA
ALBUM TITLE: DULZURA

Full Performer Name: Jennifer Pena y Los Jetz

Really now, is this cute, spunky thirteen-year-old a Selena copycat?

There have been so many negative parallels about her being compared to the Tejano queen that she hardly has gotten any aggrandizementa and respect for being Tejano music's brand new diva. How often has she heard these statements: "Jennifer is just another Selena wannabe."; "Jennifer is a Selena sellout."; "Miss Thing acting more like Queen Sheba than a new Tejano queen." Well, forget all that bullshit and realize one statement about her that can be made without plunging headlong into exaggeration: Jennifer Pena ain't no Selena copycat, and 1996 will be her year, her SIGNATURE year. She knows it, and she's got the king, queen, jack, and ten to prove it. Now, with her long-awaited debut "Dulzura" putting Tejano music on the map, Jennifer's got the ace she needs to plunk down the royal flush, clear the decks, and win the hearts of those who've been dissing and dismissing her like John Leguizamo's "House Of Buggin'."

There's no shortage of bankable tracks on "Dulzura." When the first track "Ven A Mi" kicks in, you know Jennifer y Los Jetz are throwing the menu together--a smooth bass groove, funky piano riffs, lush keyboards, and Jennifer's honey-sweet Spanish voice. They provide the listener with music that's classic Tejano, spiced with a Puerto Rican flair, and reminds one of the most popular upbeat tune from Selena's "Amor Prohibido." (just guess which one) The Tejano tradition continues on "Me Piden," a ballad that displays the ensemble's strength to produce a high-quality mariachi and reinforce the "Tex-Mex" sound. When spread over with Jennifer's opera-like vocals, the track strikes a similarity to Selena's "Tu Solo Tu" without a mariachi chorus in the background. Jennifer's vocals shine as bright as a summer day on "Vete Con Ella," another mariachi polished with an R&B groove that's packed with lovely Latin harmonies and flute-like keyboards. On "Quisiera Verte Otra Vez," the music diverts from Tejano and concentrates on a sweet soul flavor, layered with emotional harmonies and vocals displaying Jennifer singing from the heart. Other tight cuts on "Dulzura" include "Siempre Tu," an infectious Tejano tune with an effervescent melody; and "Hoy Me Siento Feliz," another Tejano tune that's sprinkled with relishing accordion licks over a subtle country-music sound.

Throughout "Dulzura," Jennifer avoids the criticism that she's a Selena clone. She places full emphasis on Tejano flavor and a tight production that shows she isn't duplicating any of Selena's musical accomplishments. At times, her music shifts into other musical forms, giving the notion that she fancies her musical interests into other genres besides Tejano. However, Jennifer sticks to her south Texas roots and adorns her music with these interests, not focusing in on any one interest. Her band Los Jetz help maintain a balance of her interests in her music, but the result is the same genre of music that has made her big sister famous. The only difference is, it's more detailed with youth, gravity, integrity, creativity, and the ensemble's commitment to stay true to themselves. With accordion sounds, trumpet flourishes, and guitar grooves thrown in the mix, "Dulzura" ends up as a ten-track joyride of pure Tejano melodies with soulful, passionate rhythms. The beauty about it is that the music comes at you in four different angles, distinguishable from one another--R&B-drenched Tex-Mex flavor; international flow; a lavish pop appeal; and, of course, Jennifer's voice.

And what about Jennifer's voice throughout "Dulzura?" Well, one listen to this diva's vocals and you know she has more Mack than Craig, 'cuase she drops the real flava in your ear. Girlfriend is bubbly, silly, and even sexy, 'cause she's got the voice that connects--beautiful, passionate, drenched with soulful power beyond her years and an emotional edge. Her voice reflects how serious and thoughtful she is and makes the listener want to fall in love with her. Other times, her voice brings out a spunkiness and sassiness that defines a "you go girl" part of her personality. Overall, there's only one word to describe Jennifer's voice on "Dulzura"--phenomenal.

Although a young musician, one can certainly place Jennifer in a core of outstanding divas that include Brandy and Whitney Houston. Then again, one can place Jennifer in a core that includes Lola Beltran, Shelly Lares, and, oh yes, Selena. Through it all, Jennifer Pena is just Jennifer Pena on "Dulzura" and nothing more--not a "Selena wannabe," a "Selena sellout," or any other bull comparing her to Selena. If Jennifer's statement hasn't been lodged into your brain, rest assured "Dulzura" is the album that proves she has arrived and wants to take out the trash on those who've made her estranged. Better hand the torch over--it's time to cheer, 'cause it's crystal clear, that Jennifer Pena's here, and 1996 will be her year. Believe that.

ROBYN'S RATING: 4 MICS--SLAMMIN', DEFINITE SATISFACTION

ALBUM DETAILS:
Performer: Jennifer Peņa y Los Jetz Musical Category: World/International--TEJANO
Album Title: Dulzura Producer(s): Abraham Quintanilla Jr.,
Brian "Red" Moore
Record Company: EMI Latin Engineer(s): Brian "Red" Moore, Joe Ojeda
Distributor: EMI Latin Studio/Live: Studio
UPC: 724383824229 Stereo/Mono: Stereo
Release Year: 1996 Guest Artists: Ricky Vela, Vicente "Chente",
Barrera, et al.
Album Length: 33:28 Availability: CD/Cassette


DATE OF REVIEW: May 10, 1996