Jennifer Peña

Dicen Que el Tiempo

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For her third solo album, Dicen Que el Tiempo, Jennifer Peña chose to work with her boyfriend rather than return to the safe harbor of producers Rudy Pérez and Kike Santander, who helmed her previous albums, Libre (2002) and Seducción (2004), both of which were chart-toppers. Then again, Peña's boyfriend is Obie Bermúdez, a Latin pop star in his own right, one who happens to be an ace songwriter with a long list of accolades. Moreover, Bermúdez has a producer of his own, Sebastián Krys, whose track record is nearly as impressive as that of either Pérez or Santander. So thankfully Peña is in good hands on Dicen Que el Tiempo, even if she chose to sail into uncharted territory. Still, there's plenty of risk at hand. Part of the risk here for Peña -- and, by association, her label, Univision, which has a lot invested in the young Mexican-American superstar -- is the songwriting, which is almost all credited to her and Bermúdez. In fact, only one song, a cover of Juan Gabriel's "Pero Qué Necesidad," isn't credited to either Peña or Bermúdez, if not both of them in conjunction. This is risky because Peña had never written her own songs before. The songs on her past albums were written primarily by Pérez and Santander, who had plenty of experience penning hits for a wide range of established Latin pop stars. Indeed, there's a sea change in songwriting evident on Dicen Que el Tiempo, one that may not be quite as broadly appealing to listeners of all ages, yet it's one that's truer to Peña, who was only 23 years old at the time of this album's release in early 2007. Thanks in large part to Bermúdez, who no doubt brought a lot of his finesse and experience to the songwriting process, Dicen Que el Tiempo is an album that speaks to the life of an early twentysomething. Even the interlude snippets are revealing. As for the songs themselves, they resemble those found on Bermúdez's recent albums: fairly stripped-down pop/rock with undercurrents of various rhythms and instrumentation common to Latin music, all of it driven by slice-of-life lyrics and, above all, catchy hooks. There's a notable scarcity of sweeping ballads à la "El Dolor de Tu Presencia," Peña's career-making solo breakthrough hit. "Como Entender," the lead single, seems like a token attempt to recapture the spirit of the Pérez-penned ballads Peña enjoyed so much success with on her previous albums. It's a good song, no doubt, but it's not one of the most interesting on Dicen Que el Tiempo, and its late-album sequencing seems to reflect that. The opening run of songs, namely "Soy Así (The Tequila Song)," "Ladrón," "Marzo 17," and "Pero Qué Necesidad," is more outstanding -- partly because it's a shock to hear Peña sing punchy pop/rock songs like these and partly because they're simply fantastic songs, on a par with Bermúdez's best work to date. Granted, some hardcore fans of Peña's previous recordings, especially her ballads and tejano-style songs, may be shocked in a bad way, since Dicen Que el Tiempo is a huge departure from the days of Jennifer y los Jetz as well as "El Dolor de Tu Presencia." On the other hand, anyone who enjoyed recent Bermúdez recordings is sure to enjoy Dicen Que el Tiempo, since Peña is a gifted singer and the songs are well crafted, if understandably young-spirited.

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