This was supposed to be JLo’s year. What happened?

Jennifer Lopez attends the premiere for the film 'Atlas' at The Egyptian Theatre Hollywood in Los Angeles, California. (Photo: Reuters)
Jennifer Lopez attends the premiere for the film 'Atlas' at The Egyptian Theatre Hollywood in Los Angeles, California. (Photo: Reuters)

Summary

A flop album, a canceled tour and troubles at Jennifer Lopez’s beauty brand have demonstrated the challenges of being a mature pop star.

In January, Jennifer Lopez shared a video with her 16.7 million YouTube subscribers titled “JLOVERS… 2024 is our year."

Nearly six months in, it looks like her prediction was off.

Lopez has flooded the zone with releases that haven’t created big cultural moments. “This Is Me…Now," her first studio album in a decade, debuted in February to a lackluster response. She also put out a music film and documentary that same month, sparking a mix of awe and snark. Tickets for an announced U.S. tour were slow to sell at some venues. Just weeks after the concerts were announced, Lopez canceled several dates and recast the tour as a greatest-hits show. On May 31, Lopez called off the tour altogether.

“Please know that I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t feel that it was absolutely necessary," Lopez wrote on her website after canceling the tour. “I promise I will make it up to you and we will all be together again."

Just a few years ago, Lopez, 54, was on top of her game—a mature pop star maintaining a firm standing in the culture. Her performance in the 2019 film “Hustlers," about strippers who steal money from men in finance, earned her a Golden Globe nomination. Her 2020 Super Bowl halftime show performance with Shakira wowed audiences. Then, in 2022, one of Hollywood’s greatest love stories found a happy ending when Lopez married her long-ago beau Ben Affleck. Fans followed every step of the rekindled romance.

Two years later, her struggles highlight the challenges pop artists can face as they work to sustain their star power decades into their careers.

Toward the end of last year, beauty retailer Sephora notified Lopez’s cosmetics brand that it would have to vacate its retail stores by the end of 2024. The brand, launched in 2021 and marketed with Lopez’s enviably glowy skin, had failed to gain traction with Sephora shoppers, people familiar with the beauty line said. The news of the brand being pulled from Sephora stores was first reported by Beauty Independent. Sephora declined to comment.

JLo Beauty’s annual sales—about $75 million, according to a person familiar with the business—are small in comparison to other celebrity brands like Rare Beauty, Selena Gomez’s brand, which reportedly generates $400 million in sales.

“Jennifer Lopez remains a super celebrity, but she has not been a relevant hit maker in a long time," said Louis Mandelbaum, host of the podcast “Pop Pantheon." “There’s a dissonance between her fame and how much currency she has as a pop star in 2024."

Supply and Demand

In February, Lopez released her ninth album, “This Is Me…Now," with an accompanying film and documentary on Amazon Prime Video. While the musical film shot to the top of Amazon Prime Video, the album debuted at No. 38 on the Billboard 200 chart. It sold 14,000 copies in the U.S. in its first week and has generated 24.7 million streams as of June 13, according to Luminate, the data tracker behind Billboard’s music charts.

Some fans defend the album. “I know it’s not getting the chart reception, but it is a good album, with quality songs," said Ric Hunter, a 54-year-old IT professional in Columbus, Ohio. He bought tickets to a July Lopez concert in Indianapolis.

The album, intended as a comeback of sorts, was one of several female-pop releases this year that failed to capture mass attention.

As part of its promotion, Lopez had planned an arena tour with 30 dates in the U.S. and Canada. Lackluster album sales were an indicator that she should have booked a smaller domestic tour, said Nora Princiotti, a pop music podcaster and author of an upcoming book about women in pop. The star instead set out for a domestic run almost as large as Olivia Rodrigo’s for her 2023 album “Guts," which sold 302,000 copies its first week.

Lopez renamed the tour “This Is Me…LIVE The Greatest Hits Tour" in April. This had been a response to confusion from fans about what music the show would include, according to a person familiar with the tour details.

In May, the average resale price for tickets to Lopez’s tour dropped 46%, according to data from the ticket site Vivid Seats. Tickets priced at $338 in February were slashed to $183.

“I think JLo misunderstood the supply and demand," said Princiotti. Other acts have had similar experiences this year. The Black Keys called off its own arena tour in May. That same month, one date on Justin Timberlake’s 2024 tour was canceled and removed from the tour list without an announcement from the artist. And ticket sales have been slow for other artists.

In Lopez’s newsletter, a statement from tour producer Live Nation said, “Jennifer is taking time off to be with her children, family and close friends." Live Nation declined to comment. Ticketmaster declined to share information about ticket sales. Several cities on the tour had sold well, including Newark, Orlando and Miami, according to a person familiar with the tour details. Her last tour, in 2019, sold 403,745 tickets and grossed $55 million, according to data from music-industry tracker Pollstar.

Beauty Troubles

Lopez’s beauty brand came amid a celebrity cosmetics boom, with many stars introducing makeup and skin care lines to cash in on their fame. Lopez is intimately involved with JLo Beauty, helping choose fragrances, packaging and formulas and offering direct feedback, former employees said.

Lopez also regularly appears at the brand’s Los Angeles office, where the beauty brand shares a floor with Lopez’s production company, Nuyorican Productions. Affleck has his own office space in the same building, a couple floors up. A former employee said that staff knew Lopez would make an appearance when the office had fresh flowers and Le Labo Santal 26 candles burning, plus Milano cookies for snacks and pistachio milk for Lopez’s coffee.

JLo Beauty launched in 2021 with products including an $80 serum and $50 eye cream. The brand expanded to a team of about 35 employees and some contract workers, and hired a seasoned chief executive officer from Estée Lauder. The skin care label, aimed at women 30 and up, used an olive-oil complex in its anti-aging products. JLo often touted the ingredient in interviews.

Kristy Onyeaju, a 35-year-old high-school guidance counselor in Toronto, said she had started buying JLo Beauty two years ago in the hopes of aging like Lopez.

“With the moisturizer and Wonder Cream, I saw amazing results," said Onyeaju. “It’s the best stuff for that price point."

Onyeaju said she had been disappointed when Sephora associates recently told her they were no longer stocking the products in stores, without explaining why. JLo Beauty pulled in $5 million in sales at Sephora from January 2023 to October 2023, according to market-research firm YipitData; a 33% drop from the same period in 2022.

JLo Beauty declined to make employees available for an interview. The brand still has wholesale partnerships with Sephora’s online business, Macy’s, Amazon and Revolve, a spokesman said. Amazon declined to comment. Revolve declined to comment.

In the summer of 2023, JLo Beauty made budget cuts, resulting in major staff reductions, people familiar with the business said. A spokesman for JLo Beauty said the company had reduced its workforce by about 35% in 2023, based on strategy decisions. In March 2024, its CEO left the company and joined the team at Supergoop.

After its struggles at Sephora, JLo Beauty has found devotees at Macy’s, which began stocking the brand in October. A spokesperson for the department store said “our customers have been loving the products, specifically the serum and moisturizers" and that the brand has been particularly popular with Hispanic and Latino consumers.

‘Soooo Much Love Out There’

Lopez’s three-part release this year was about her lifelong search for love—and finding it with Affleck. The singer has said she spent $20 million to finance the album and musical film; she sold the film to Amazon Prime Video at a profit, according to a person familiar with the situation. Artists Equity, a production company whose co-founders include Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, paid for and produced the documentary.

In the fickle and volatile world of social media, Lopez has been the object of criticism—sometimes from people who haven’t watched the movies or listened to the music they are criticizing. But her recent Netflix film, “Atlas," has earned fans.

“It was very good and very entertaining," said Ailing Zubizarreta, a 50-year-old TV executive in Miami Beach. “Very JLo." Lopez stars in “Atlas," a sci-fi action movie about the threat of artificial intelligence, and is one of its producers.

Just days after announcing that the summer tour was off, Lopez emailed subscribers to her newsletter, notifying them that “Atlas" was the platform’s top global movie.

“It may seem like there’s a lot of negativity out in the world right now," Lopez wrote. “But don’t let the voices of a few drown out that there is soooo much love out there. 🤍"

Write to Chavie Lieber at Chavie.Lieber@WSJ.com

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