11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Nice body of work, Ms. Jackson,
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This review is from: Number Ones (Audio CD)
Barring a major comeback--which I would gladly welcome--Janet Jackson's hit-making career seems to have come to an end when she performed with Justin Timberlake at a certain Super Bowl halftime show. Prior to that lapse in judgment, she had been one of America's pre-eminent pop-R&B singers--after all, she came from musical royalty. Even if she is never able to return to her former glory (sadly, radio is not kind to performers over 35, in any genre, no matter how good the music), this collection will stand as an impressive body of work. The first disc is the stronger of the two, and covers the years of 1986-1993. Many of these songs are certified classics: "What Have You Done for Me Lately" is a wonderfully defiant statement:, "That's the Way Love Goes" is a sexy treat, "Love Will Never Do (Without You)" still goes off like a bomb when it plays in your iPod, not to mention "Escapade", "Miss You Much", and "Nasty", among others. This disc also includes Janet's collaboration with Herb Alpert--a hit-maker before she was even born--whom Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis gave one final top ten hit, "Diamonds", as well as "The Best Things in Life Are Free", recorded with the late great Luther Vandross and those guys from New Edition. The second disc finds her career kicking into a lower gear, but not always for a lack of trying. The disc opens with the rest of Janet's 1993-94 work from the album "janet." This material is still great overall, but you can see the sexiness start to creep in--"Any Time, Any Place" is pretty ribald compared to "Escapade". This era also ushered in interludes--short skits that occur on R&B albums, marring the overall flow of the album. The only time these every really worked was on "Rhythm Nation 1814", when they were part of the flow and not like speed bumps standing in the way of good music. The disc also includes some important one-off items: the collaboration with her King of Pop brother, "Scream" (the first time it has appeared on a Janet album); a duet with Busta Rhymes(!) on "What's It Gonna Be?!" and a reprise of the hit single from "Design of a Decade", "Runaway". Surprisingly, "The Velvet Rope"--a dark, sexy album that showed many sides of Janet's personality--is well represented. It includes top five hits `Together Again" and "I Get Lonely", as well as dance/airplay hits "Go Deep" (good slice of pop) and "Got Til It's Gone" (a song I've never quite understood, but nice to have on here). The "All for You [Extra Track]" era is well-represented, too, by "Doesn't Really Matter" and "All For You" (both #1 pop hits) and "Someone to Call My Lover" with its "Ventura Highway" sample. Around this time, Janet seems to have pushed the limits of her image too far. She was more or less nude on the cover of "All For You", and then topless on the cover of "Damita Jo". She began to lose her funky independence and her clothes in favor of breathy tunes about her...climax. Rather than tantalizing, it just came off as desperate. Granted, many men sing about the same thing on their albums and I also find that desperate. Perhaps I am just showing my age, as this has been increasingly popular in today's music world. "Damita Jo" found Janet failing to reach the top 40 with any singles, in spite of a #45 debut for "Just a Little While" and strong R&B airplay for "I Want You". The lone inclusion from that album--a bloated disappointment that might have been better with some trimming, some different production, and better publicity--was a song that mainly just got dance airplay, "All Nite (Don't Stop)". Around this same time, Janet was also dating Jermaine Dupri, a decent-if-annoying producer whose M.O. is to say "uh-huh" and "yeah" all over his artists' productions. He seemed to steer Janet in a different direction--away from her record label, her longtime producers and her fanbase. Her next album, "20 Y.O", seemed like an attempt to recapture former glory. I streamed the album and couldn't find much to get excited about. The magic was gone. The album is represented here by "Call on Me", an okay duet with Nelly--another artist whose career seemed to decline as this decade wore on. With this album out of the way, Janet gave the world "Discipline". This album returned Janet to the top of the sales charts but did not include Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis behind the boards. The single "Feedback", which is pretty good if not great, is included here. The final track is new--called "Make Me", it recalls her brother's "Don't Stop `Til You Get Enough" as well as Janet's danceable past. Janet has split with Jermaine Dupri, so the future for her musically seems to be in her hands, to paraphrase "Again". Nearly every hit is here, save for "You Want This"; others such as "Son of a Gun" are not missed by me. And as for the packaging? The cover of this album looks pretty good as well--Janet is dressed and looks like, well, a lady. The few times when she has appeared on TV this year--her brother's memorial, his MTV VMA tribute, and the recent ABC interview--Janet has looked very classy and in "Control". We also get something too many albums lack these days--legible liner notes with writer/producer/album credits. Overall, this is an excellent package and a great addition to any collection of popular music from the last 25 years.
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Initial post: Nov 22, 2009 3:34:26 PM PST
J. Alexander says:
Well written review. Nice to know there are still some intelligent people out there, you expressed a lot of what i think about Ms. Janet. I have thought about her career trajectory and why it just got worse and worse with all the unnecessary sexual focus which wrecked her reputation and respectability. Rhythm Nation was her best and most focused album I think because of her husband's influence. He kept all of her sexual "demons" in check and the only overtly sexual song on Rhythm Nation was Someday Is Tonight (a dramatic song that I have always loved) with her climaxing and heavy breathing a foreshadowing of what was to be unleashed on her next album. Her next album still had some of the same socially conscious songs as Rhythm Nation but now her sexual muse was ripe for maturity with songs like "Throb" and "Anytime, Anyplace" (again two songs i have always loved). By the release of Velvet Rope the sexual Janet was in full control of her career and her marriage had dissolved. Every album after Velvet Rope was sex focused and completely lost any respectability Janet had amassed up to that point. Some of the songs on All For You were still shadows of her former glory but the breathyness and endless climaxing on every song was getting tedious and boring. My favourite song from All For You is When We Oooh, subtly sexual but more about spiritual oneness than just XXX rated. Janet serves the same function as her brother in the pop-dance-hip-hop genealogy. She was the first one to create for females the pop mould we have known for the last thirty years. She, like her brother Michael and his 80s rival Prince as well, gave us the complete picture. Singing, dancing, writing, producing, performers with impeccable credentials and artisitic integrity.
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