September 25, 2006
Review: Janet's 20 YO
Before I unleash my "truth" about the new Janet Jackson CD 20 YO, you might want to refer to my review of Damita Jo, Janet's weak 2004 album, on which I thought she'd reached rock bottom. I am here to tell you that Miss Jackson has indeed reached rock bottom and continues to dig. 20 YO is flaming piece of shit. Let's look at fact and fiction...
Fallacy: Jan has proclaimed this album a celebration of her 20 years of music, a celebration of her past success. Caca! There is virtually nothing about this album that sounds like the Janet Jackson that we know. Yes, maybe she looks back as far as the sunburst-nipped Damita Jo years (2004), but that's as far as she goes. This could pass for an album by Ashanti.
Truth: Jan still likes to sing about jerking off (Take Care, which is actually gorgeous), opening "my spot for you, anytime you want me to" (on the excremental So Excited), or this gem "You know it makes the you-know-what come out." Eww. She also sounds strangely weak on many of the songs, sort of scratchy.
Fallacy: This is a dance record. Please! Can you dance to So Excited - or would you want to? There is no Together Again or even an All Nite. This is music for 90's throwbacks who like to bounce their cars while attending Freaknik (I hope that is not offensive - I don't mean it to be. Not everyone at Freaknik would fit that stereotype).
Truth: The cover could be worse, but the overall artwork is pathetic. Never has someone been so (pointlessly) photoshopped and that's saying a lot, coming from a Madge fan (only Mariah Scarey can out-do Janet in the airblasting). The logo looks amateur and the pictures are neither thematic or iconic.
Fallacy: The album is 100% turd. It's not. There are two standout tracks that prove she could've pulled off her own rejuvenation (a la Mariah and Madge). The first is the ebullient Enjoy (watch the suits whisk in to make that a single before Christmas) - a track so happy it has children doing la la la las at the end. The ballad Take Care, complete with fingersnaps, revisits the oceanic synths of Come Back To Me. One of the Jermaine tracks (Do It 2 Me) is okay, if only because it's built on a great sample. Tellingly, one of the best songs, Days Go By is not even on the album! It's available only on the Japanese version of the CD.
Truth: The album has more of her trademark interludes. Aside from the usual use of falling rain, Janet is once again yukking it up backstage with her posse, specifically someone named Lynette. Gee thanks, but these inside jokes are not so interesting.
Truth: There are rapper features all over the album. From the already trashed Nelly and Khia collabs, to several other songs with raps. The nadir is the truly horrid Show Me which is frequently interrupted by some female rapper whinging, "How bad do u want it?" Press. Delete. Now. In 1993, Chuck D did a truth-telling rap on her majestic New Agenda. The days of chilling with Kathleen Battle and the brilliant Q-Tip are long gone.
20YO is the sound of a midlife crisis. Was Janet even present for most of production? It's a shameless bid for a young urban market, but does Janet really think she can - or needs to, more precisely - go up against hot young babe like Cassie (ed. note: Cassie, but you lost me when you feigned disgust /offense that people believe your single is about giving head. At least own your inner freak!). It should be noted that all the songs I like on 20 YO do not include any credit for Jermaine Dupree. Bring back Jam, Lewis, and Rene Elizondo now!
Janet: there was once a time when you owned the top of the pop charts and ruled as a princess in the homes of black America. You know, the normal Jackson who cared about racism, sexism, homophobia, AIDS, war and all the noise coming out at us from the TV. Now you contribute to that noise. It took 20 years to... give up your power?
Now I know there are some readers who will disagree about this album. Some very young readers in particular. I ask you to go back and compare this album to Janet's output from 1986 - 1997 and then we'll talk. Stay tuned for a post in which I rewrite history and present a Janet album that doesn't exist...