Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Near Wardrobe Malfunction, Great Music for Janet Jackson in "20 YO"

It's been 20 years since Janet Jackson's breakthrough CD, "Control," and in that time, she's become one of the most popular female artists of all time, the best in-concert female artist of all time, one of the most consistent female artists of all time and, in some circles, one of the most villified female artists of all time.

Since the infamous accidental wardrobe malfuction at the 2004 Super Bowl, Jackson has become a punching bag for media and cynical fans. There was supposed to be a piece of clothing left over her breast when Justin Timberlake pulled her top off but truth is, the whole move should've been left out. Jackson apologized for the incident, like Timberlake apologized for it, but for some reason, for Janet, apologizing isn't enough.

The incident introduced her to scores of people and media who hadn't heard her music and many media people bought into the fact that this "stunt" was somehow decided to re-engerize a sagging career, reporting it to the masses. Truth is, Jackson had a No. 1 album and No. 1 hit pop song, both called "All 4 U", in 2001 -- plus one of the highest-rated live concert showings in HBO history -- and was readying a summer 2004 release called "Damita Jo."

When she did the duet with Timberlake, Jackson didn't yet have a project to promote and her record company mistakenly rushed out a bad single, "Just A Little While."

Turns out the album, "Damita Jo," was another in a consisently strong line of work from Jackson. It was her "Dirty Mind," but Jackson has always talked about sex and shown off her body. This was nothing new. But to the new members of the media who were now covering her, it probably seemed like overkill, given what she'd just been through -- and they were probably right. Jackson should've toned down her image a bit, at least for awhile.

The album got strong reviews and had platinum sales. It didn't do Janet Jackson numbers, but if you believe what you read, Damita Jo was a flop. It didn't go multi-platinum mainly because radio wouldn't play it and MTV wouldn't play her videos for "I Want You" and "All Nite," two songs that would've been out-of-the-park hits at any other point in Jackson's career.

And now, comes her latest project, "20 Y.O." reflecting the 20 years since "Control." This is the best pop/R&B album to come along this year, breezing past strong efforts from Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake, a good record from Beyonce' -- and smashing lackluster efforts from Ciara, Rihanna and Fergie.

This is the album most of the young female pop stars want to make. It debuted at No. 2 on Billboard's Top 100 album chart this week with sales of just under 300,000. It's chock full of hits. The car-bumping slow-jam duet with rapper Nelly, "Call On Me," is a toe tapper that's already shot to No. 1 on Billboard's R&B charts twice.

The current single, "So Excited," samples Herbie Hancock's classic, "Rock-it," and freshens it with good results. There really isn't a bad song on the album, save for the final track, "Love 2 Love", and throughout Jackson pays homage to her earlier work through samples and memorable cord lines.

I'm not sure if radio is going to be friendly to this project, but there are tons of potential mega-hit singles, mainly the fifth track, "Do It 2 me," a drum-less club-bopper and the kind of track Jackson hasn't done before. It's hard to get out of your head. "This Body" will remind you of "Black Cat" with a heavy bass line and finds Jackson playing the role of magazine centerfold for a man dreaming of her really coming to life.

On the second half, the album mellows out with great results. Just when you think "Daybreak" is the perfect happy song (and the perfect successor to "Escapade"), along comes "Enjoy," with its kids-singing-the-chorus ending and the solid ballad, "Take Care," which is something anyone who's been in a long distance relationship can relate to.

Virgin Records sent me a special DVD packaging of the CD, which includes a 20-page color booklet of Jackson pictures and lyrics. You also get a free online download to a remix of "Call On Me," which will fit nicely on your iPod. The DVD has tons of behind the scenes footage and shows Jackson filming the video for "Call On Me," dancing so hard she very nearly pops out of her top creating the aforementioned Wardrobe Malfuction II.

As soon as it happens, she smiles at the camera people, embarrassed and surprised. I think if people get past the Jackson backlash and listen to the music here, they might be surprised at how good it really is (Ratiing 4.5/5).


Darrick said...

Awesome review!!!! Thank you for looking pass the controversy and approaching 20 Years Old with an open mind. It is a damn good album. Kudos to Janet!

Jerome said...

This is the best review I've read thus far of 20 Y.O. It's a great CD, period, and people are doing themselves a disservice if they don't cop it.

Anonymous said...

I commend this writer for such a positive review of this great album. At least this critic has the intelligence to actually LISTEN to the music before reviewing it, and NOT have preconceived ideas on how the music sounds based on unintelligible preconceived notations on who the artist's is as a person.

Anonymous said...

Langston, phenomenal review. Well written and well thot out. You should get out of sports writing and do pop culture at a magazine. Seriously.

Marq aka: Serapis said...

I agree with everything you have said.
Shame people cant see past an incident that happened a few years back.
Reviewers seem to have this preconceived notion that Janet is generic, but this is not the case. It is time, that people took the time to actually listen to music to realise how strong it is.
AND YES! There are many hits on this album. Shame that we live in a bigoted society, and no-one will play it.
At least i have the pleasant thought in my mind and heart, that i was privelidged enough to aquire a copy, and savour it.