There is a 2005 single, a huge hit, and many will tell you it’s producer Rich Harrison’s masterpiece. On that record, cut-ups of funk breaks are rearranged at oblique angles in a 21st century update of James Brown’s rhythmic modernism, building an abstract sculpture of bone-rattling beats and slivers of jagged keys and horns. And the singer, turning in her own career-best performance, turns that beatspace into a jungle-gym, her song finding the gaps in the arrangement and filling them with micro-hooks before the chorus locks in, like a twist in a metal puzzle that magically turns a mess of points and edges into a perfect cube.

This is not that single. “Get Right” is, at best, the shadow Amerie’s “1 Thing” casts on the cave wall of pop. At worst, I can’t believe it’s by the same producer, it sounds so much like an adequate knock-off of Harrison’s deconstructed-funk style – the kind of reasonable imitation you’d guess a somewhat unfashionable superstar could fix up when the real thing turned her down. But “Get Right” is Harrison, it is the real thing. It’s just a bit second-rate. The car-alarm horn sample from Maceo & The Macks that drives the beat is insistent but compared to “Crazy In Love”’s fanfare it’s nagging rather than ecstatic. And compared to “1 Thing”’s thrilling rhythmic play “Get Right”’s beat feels linear and ordinary.

Of course, there’s a considerable distance between “not as good as two of the greatest R&B singles of the decade” and “bad”. “Get Right” is in the same broad region as “Goodies” and “Flap Your Wings” – enjoyable tracks which disappoint mostly because you know the people involved are capable of much more. But there’s a weaker link here than in either of those – even if Rich Harrison had conjured a beat as startling as “1 Thing”, J-Lo is surely not the singer to handle it. Her performance on “Get Right” does nothing to rescue the track – in fact it’s at its best for the 25 seconds or so before she turns up. She sounds overpowered by the production, her voice weak and her singing hemmed in, restricted to a cluster of high notes.

So we don’t even need to compare “Get Right” to Amerie or Beyonce – standards it was never going to meet. We can compare it to the best of J-Lo’s own material – “Jenny From The Block”, with Lopez in a more confident lower register and some of the strain being taken by Jadakiss and Styles P, is a track in the same area as “Get Right” but hugely more likeable and successful, even if you think J-Lo’s claims to realness are silly.

And yet, even though Jennifer Lopez is the worst thing about “Get Right”, the beat doesn’t spark to life when a more commanding singer handles it. Usher’s “Ride”, using the same production, leaked online in 2004 having been left of the singer’s LP. Usher can deal with the Maceo sample’s hustle better, but he still has trouble imposing himself on the track and it’s easy to hear why “Ride” didn’t make the Confessions cut. Perhaps there’s just not enough space in the beat for anyone to manage it well – one of those musical ideas which a producer can’t quite make work no matter who he uses or what he does.

Score: 5

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