Just Friends: "Live It Up" and the Odd, Sweet Friendship Between Pitbull and J. Lo

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Pitbull and Jennifer Lopez released "Live It Up" yesterday, the duo's third collaboration in three years. For artists who aren't married, and never were in any sort of band together, this is a pretty rare thing. It gets even more odd when you examine each artist's discography. Sure, Pitbull works with everybody, but Lopez has only released six singles since her 2010 comeback—Mr. Worldwide is on half of them.

What's going on? Is it a secret romance? We don't think so. Part of this is due to our own pet theories, but a brief trip through the duo's output will put all thoughts of love from your mind: Pitbull and J. Lo simply have no romantic chemistry. But it's not like they're trying to. Unlike J. Lo's past duets with LL Cool J and Ja Rule, the songs she records with Pitbull are not love songs in a traditional sense.

Here's how they generally go: Pitbull shows up to rap about how great he is, and how much women want him. (These women are never J. Lo, though; they're always anonymous groupies.) Then Lopez pops in to sing a verse about partying, or being in love (but not with Pitbull), or both. Then comes a dance breakdown courtesy of RedOne and after that a hook, sung by Lopez. Typical EDM-pop, in other words, notable only for the fact that these two keep coming back to each other.

What holds this platonic relationship together? For one thing, flattery. In his verses, Pitbull always makes sure to be effusive with his praise for Lopez, particularly her looks. "It's Mr. Worldwide and the world's most beautiful woman," he raps in "Dance Again." The "Live It Up" intro repeats the message almost verbatim: "It's Mr. Worldwide, RedOne, and the beautiful Jennifer Lopez." But it's not all about looks for Pitbull. In "Live It Up" he also praises the friendship as a unit of strength ("We don't believe in defeat, that's why we're back for a three peat") and shares some fond remembrances of their past ("From the streets of Miami, to presenting at the Grammys").

But while Pitbull is clearly emotionally invested in the friendship, Lopez keeps her distance. She never returns any of his compliments, sometimes barely acknowledging him at all, and often seems to be singing her verses from a different studio. (Knowing the realities of the music industry in the 21st century, it wouldn't be surprising to find the pair had recorded their parts on separate continents.) Still, there are flashes of warmth. Lopez clearly enjoyed Pitbull's company at the Grammys at least a little bit, and she didn't mind getting close with him when they performed at the AMAs in 2011:

If you're looking for a analogue for Pitbull and Jennifer Lopez's relationship, it's helpful to think of Pitbull as a nerdy teenage boy and Lopez as his friend's hot older sister. He has a bit of a crush on her, which he expresses mostly through awkward compliments; she doesn't take him super-seriously, but she enjoys the attention and thinks he's funny. They spend some time together, find out they like hanging out and eventually a weird, sweet friendship blossoms. John Hughes couldn't have scripted it any better himself.