My Feedback? I. Want. 2. Rock. With. U.

Aug 28, 2009 (Updated Aug 28, 2009)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Ms. Jackson's back, kiddies! Her best album since The Velvet Rope.

Cons:Janet didn't write any of the songs. No Jimmy Jam or Terry Lewis.

The Bottom Line: So so so much betta, I'm for you.


=
I've been down this road before
I know it very well
And I just can't believe I got struck
I didn't see ya comin'
Like I was blindfolded
I'm caught up in collision
And now I'm so done
You crept up like a spider
I got caught in your web
And there was no way to escape
I tried to switch my lane
But then I hit my brakes
Sparks turned into flames

I should have stopped at the red light...
=

In my eyes, Janet Jackson's tenth studio album Discipline was a long time coming. Since the late-90s, fans were left pining for something innovative and flat-out cool. Ironically, the release would come in an album comprised of studio-songs, none of which feature a single word from Ms. Jackson. This record is a drastic change from her previous efforts, including the previous hip-hop 20 Y.O. Looking at the liner-notes, die-hard fans may feel a sense of panic and confusion, so it's a good thing anybody rarely looks at them. For the first time since the mid-80s project Dream Street, co-producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (aka musical gods) did not work on a Janet record. The result is a feeling of musical castration. Not only did Janet not pen a single freaking note, but those she and her fans trust the most are nowhere to be found. Then you point the figure at Jermaine Dupri, her then boyfriend, who has had a strong helping hand in changing Jackson's image. Blinded by love is only part of it, though. Who else is to blame? Ah! New record label. Do they even care about Janet as an artist? Or do they only care about her last name? Who. Is. Responsible. And you make all this fuss, but then you pop the disc into the player and realize that Discipline is a Janet Jackson album like no other, making it original among her particular discography. Released in 2008, it had a lot of competition, namely Madonna's Hard Candy, Cyndi Lauper's Bring Ya to the Brink, and Mariah Carey's E=MC2. Though this is one of the least successful of the four, it worked: it got everybody talking about Janet Jackson again. That and this album is too catchy for words.

When I first got a hold of the latest Janet record, I was floored by just how catchy it was. Feedback had a strong impression on me and my ears with its scratchy, rapid-hitting synth pops and beats that make it one of the best songs to choreograph to-- ever. The chorus works its way into your head for weeks while the attitude-driven vocal performance is both memorable and worthy of success: "Strum me like a guitar / Blow out my amplifier / When you hear some feedback / Keep going / Take it higher." She's still a complete nymphomaniac, but it's one of those songs that isn't as flat-out nasty. The line about her period is, though, so keep an ear out. This album had a lot of things going against it, so I wasn't expecting the swirl of catchy dance tracks that followed it, like the thickly produced Luv and the synth-mess of Rollercoaster. This album features a slew of producers that had one plate and just kept piling more and more stuff on top of it; but somehow, when Janet's singing, it all just works. The lyrically sterile electro-dance song Rock With U features one of the greatest beats on a Janet record. The 80's beats and production take me right back to the Control album, reminding me of a mellower version of The Pleasure Principle. When I let this album sick in, I couldn't believe how much I was enjoying it-- the same way I enjoyed Control and janet. There wasn't a bunch of BS that I had to sift though. I didn't need to take this album with  grain of salt.

2Nite is a catchy dance track with a synth basis and late-80s soul flair, similar to that of Sheila E. or Whitney Houston (and I don't even LIKE Houston's music!) The breakdown features a hiccuping section, similar to that of her brother's early work, that meshes rather well the beats, making it a weird combination of 1986 and Michael's Off the Wall project: "My body's hear / I'm soaking wet / I wanna give you something that you won't forget..." This is what Damita Jo could have been but just wasn't. Unfortunately, not every track is a winner, as evidence by the generically generic hip-pop track The 1 with Missy Elliott (who I usually love!); on the plus side, I like (some of) the ballads! The title-track is a whispered ode to intense sexual passion while an S&M flavor. I usually think these songs don't work, but her delivery is way more honest than anything from her previous albums, particularly when she sings with a mix of fear and extreme desire. Curtains is a nice song, though I will say that it's a little too similar to the previous song; Can't B Good is a throwback to her 1993-era with its mellowed grooves and sugary sweet vocals. For an album that seemingly had very little to do with Janet herself, this record sounds like her. This is a quintessential Janet record with a slew of great electro-pop dance tracks, hip-hop flavored beats, 80s-soaked stylization, and her voice of honey. So Much Betta features a great Daft Punk sample and a robotic weirdness that makes it very tongue-in-cheek and hypnotically catchy.

Discipline is, as much as I love it, unbalanced. Side A is far stronger than Side B is, and I do find myself listening to the first half more the latter half. I kind of wish they were mixed. But then, if I were to make my own playlist, that would disrupt the flow of the record because of gapless interludes that are straight up stupid. The science-fiction theme of Discipline could have been done about a thousand times better rather than with a cyborg-voice of a house-robot named "Kyoko," voiced by Ms. Jackson herself. Some don't annoy me as much as others, but there are definitely moments of this album that makes me want to shake this woman senseless. Janet Jackson can do interludes well-- Rhythm Nation proved that; this is not so successful. But in the grand schemes of these, it's not that big of a deal.

VERDICT
With her latest exploit, Janet Jackson not only made me rediscover why I was a fan, but also piqued the interest of the public musically since 2001's All For You. I love this record, and I love that she was doing something new. This album has her classic hip-hop styles, but also her 80s synth music. Janet goes in da club, out da club, into the dance hall, through the European discotheque, and creates a very nice record, the first one I bought at the time of release since 2001.

01. I.D. [--]
02. Feedback [5 Stars]
03. Luv [5 Stars]

04. Spinning [--]
05. Rollercoaster [5 Stars]
06. Bathroom Break [--]
07. Rock With U [5 Stars]
08. 2Nite [5 Stars]

09. Can't B Good [3.5 Stars]
10. 4 Words [--]
11. Never Letchu Go [3 Stars]
12. Truth or Dare [--]
13. Greatest X [2 Stars]
14. Good Morning Janet [--]
15. So Much Betta [5 Stars]
16. Play Selection [--]
17. The 1 (feat. Missy Elliott) [2 Stars]
18. What's Ur Name [5 Stars]
19. The Meaning [--]
20. Discipline [5 Stars]
21. Back [--]
22. Curtains [4 Stars]

BEST: Rock With U, Feedback, and 2Nite
WORST: Greatest X

SCORE: 4 STARS (4.1- )

--

JANET JACKSON
1982 - Janet Jackson
1984 - Dream Street
1986 - Control
1989 - Rhythm Nation 1814
1993 - janet.
1997 - The Velvet Rope
2001 - All For You
2004 - Damita Jo
2006 - 20 Y.O.
2006 - 20 Y.O. (Special Edition)
2006 - So Excited (CD-Single)
2008 - Discipline


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