Most helpful critical review
93 of 112 people found the following review helpful
What we have here is a failure to communicate
on February 28, 2008
For me, The Velvet Rope was Janet's masterpiece, though I didn't feel that way at the time. It wasn't until later that I realized how often the CD found its way back into my CD player. Velvet Rope seemed to culminate all the ideas and concepts Janet had been toying with since she first came on the scene. It represented Janet at her most personal, vulnerable and sexy with songs that ranged from an abusive relationship, to loss of a loved one to being tied up (presumably with ropes that were velvet) during sexual encounters to a bunch of emotions that ran the gamut of chaste to...not so chaste. It was expressive, dark and moody. Since then, her releases have been very cheery, which isn't a problem in and of itself.
Here's the thing. I've been listening to Janet Jackson since Control, when I was a young kid in the 80s. I've loved every single album she's released and even when the last two haven't been so great, I've still enjoyed them. The problem is, ever since All For You, the CDs have begun to run together. While I really enjoyed 20 Y.O., I was hoping for further evolution of Janet as an artist and I placed my hope in Discipline. Unfortunately, what I'm finding is an artist that seems to be trying so hard to gain a hit again that she's giving up everything that makes her unique.
It starts with getting rid of Jam and Lewis, her cohorts in crime since the beginning. When 20 Y.O. came out, I had thought that maybe finding new producers might help her freshen her image, but that has backfired. The songs on Discipline are...well, a lot of them are boring. They feel like any of the other nameless R&B artists out there, pumping out music that anyone of them could sing as opposed to personal songs that have defined Janet over her 20+ year career.
"Feedback" is a fun song; I was hoping that it was a sign that Discipline would be a great, daring new CD. But, after that song, I found myself stuck in music that wasn't exciting, daring or different. The only songs that really stuck out to me throughout my listens were "The 1" with Missy, "The Greatest X," and the aforementioned "Feedback." Those are ones I've listened to on a few occasions because I've enjoyed them and they remind me of some of Janet's fun, good songs. A few songs in the middle, like "Rock With You" are enjoyable, if easily forgetable. Then there are the ones that simply are crud. The title track, for instance, is probably the biggest misstep of Janet's career. It's not the sexy, sultry song she wants it to be and he use of the word "daddy" just adds to the weirdness. Honestly, at 40, shouldn't Janet be past the father-figure authoritarian fantasy? Even if not, this was done much better...in the Velvet Rope with "Rope Burn."
Instead of being the comback album Janet and friends have been hoping for since 20 Y.O., Discipline finds Janet so desperate to make a comeback album that she's willing to sacrifice her soul to do so. Melodramatic, I know, but this is the first time I've seen her singing songs she didn't write. Granted, Janet's not exactly the great poet of R&B, but it was her words, they came from her heart and they were about things she was facing. Instead of writing her album, she hired "hitmakers" to create songs and it shows. None of the songs really feel like a Janet song; they could just as easily be sung by any of the countless other R&B performers out there. What's worse, a lot of the songs feel like filler and I'm having trouble, looking at the song list, trying to remember how some of the songs go. By trying so desperately to make a comeback, Janet gave up what made her, her.
I know this isn't going to be a popular review and I'll have to be content with that. Believe me when I say that I'm sad that this is my first non-glowing review for Ms. Jackson. Before I bought this album, I was hearing a lot of less than stellar things being said here and elsewhere, I just told myself that these people were the haters and that her album would be good. Unfortunately, that's not the case and I've been seeing some fans, both longtime fans and new, saying similar things.
In a career that spans more than 20 years, everyone is entitled to a dud. As a fan of her work, this would be that one for me.