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...

17 comments:

countpopula said...

Well, I won't condemn her as much as you kind sir, but I do think 20YO could have been much better. You're right about the generic nature of many of the tracks that would have been more suited to a younger singer, but I also think it sounds better than 95% of Damita Jo (Sexhibition anyone?). That being said, I thought Do it to me sounded GHASTLY, and many songs like With U bear a creepy vocal resemblance to her brother MJ not heard on this plane before. Enjoy IS good, and I like the experimental nature of some tracks like Show Me (nice little Kraftwerk samples), but this will do little to get her back to the level she wants to be at (you can rest easy Beyonce). And those many cover shots are pretty dreadful--where's the continuity? (The only worse ones this year were Jessica Simpson's booklet glamour shots--PUH-LEEZE!). The project just doesn't make much sense, but thankfully the album is shorter than most of her records. Just one thing...why can't they get rid of those DAMN ANNOYING INTERLUDES??? When will they learn their lesson? Control was the last interlude-free record from her--20 YEARS OLD INDEED!

im-always-right.com said...

It's just SUCH a let down, very average record. I was listening to the "janet." album quite recently and - to this day - I still find it as satisfyingly bonkers as I did when it was released.

Why couldn't she try to innovate again instead of attempt to recreate everything we're already sick of? The album's not terrible, but it sounds like so many different songs from the last couple of years that it's really not worth sitting through more than once.

PinkieDust said...

Janet was nothing special to start with. 4 sure there were moments on Velvet Rope but besides from that she's never grabbed my attention. But then i grew up in the UK. She's never truly had a huge pull here.

xolondon said...

I wonder if Janet is an age thing?I hope that doesn't sound patronising! I am old enough to have been the right age when she came on the scene and I think 1) yes, it may be an American thing and 2) she was HUGE for a number of years, and deservedly so. Velvet Rope was the tail end of that time.

Am not sure she ever really innovated as much as just brought great tunes. She certainly did do a lot of different styles, though her innovation may have been bringing an industrial sound or martial beat to pop music. Her early era is very clang-y!

PinkieDust said...

And you know what. Kylie went through ten years of badness(blandness). For sure what she produced actually pleased some(IP is the best things she's ever done). But for the majority, she went into decline. Now she's releasing everythin' the public want of her. Janet will back. She needs to restock and rethink her moves.

I do think its an age/location thing with Janet. Lately her UK chart history is quite crap. The only top ten hit was All For You(no.3). Everything since as all landed 13-19. She's NEVER had a no.1 in the UK despite huge record company backing.

J'ason D'luv said...

I've never paid more than distant attention to Janet. Her songs were always in the background somewhere in the mental snapshots of my 7-11th grade years.

Statistically and sales-wise, she really peaked with the Janet album in '93... didn't she have like 7 or 8 singles off that become hits?

I'd argue that she lost it after the 1995 greatest hits album... "Runaway" was a big hit, and I have fond memories of hearing that at the club I'd frequent back in my college days...

But Velvet Rope didn't have any hits until they were remixed in a haste after "Got 'til It's Gone" flopped. If you have to remix the singles for them to become hits, chances are the album's DOA as is.

Did she put an album out between that one and Damita Jo? DAMITA JO!!! Seriously, what was she, or any of these popstars who come up with self-indulgent nicknames or alter egos or past life spiritual doppelganger names that they think anyone but themselves are going to care about, thinking?

Needless to say, I've never bought a single Janet album, and it don't look like I'll be starting with this one....

I did by "All For You" as an import single... I was bored one day at the Virgin Megastore and there was nothing else out. sigh....

Nice writeup, though... it certainly convinced me.

Ella Thorvaldsen said...

I quite like the album. I think Janet is one of too few women in the public eye that is brave enough to talk about raw female sexuality. Male acts are allowed to get rough and dirty with the objects of their cocks but when a woman does it it has to be twee like Jesicca Simpson or kylie, pornographic like Britney or ridiculous like Beyonce.

Naturally this alienates her gay audiences as well as her straight male audience. The music isnt that grand but i like Janets attitude at the moment.

Ella out...


PS: Pinkie, yes Janet's single chart positions are crap. She does however sell out quite lot when she tours. Sadly, the flopping albums tend to coincides when she either cancels a tour in europe or simply doesnt do one. In other words, the girl needs to tour here...

xolondon said...

My friend emailed me and said, "Gee, what do you REALLY think of the Janet CD?" I'm sure many WILL like her updated sound. It's a quick retort, that she simply alienates men, but I think that was true in 2004 (w/the nipple bullshit). She paid the price because she was a horny black woman...the football crowd got their feathers ruffled.

I'd argue that she nailed the sex commentary in 1993 and 1997 (two sides of the sex coin - light and dark). I see this new stuff as not only played out, but also not overly liberating; Peaches "Shake Yer Dix" probably does what you are talking about though. Or would, if she weren't so freaky and mannish! Sexy Janet goes down better, so to speak. If you just take it as face value, it's fine. I tend not to take pop at face value.

Let me say one more thing about my closet-to-misogynist Cassie comment. I feel a bit guilty about that. It comes not from the song or Cassie herself (she is v young). I don't like how she disavowed it on her myspace, implying that anyone who thought she was singing about cock was dirty.

I can't be pleased this fall, though. I've been meh, disliked or hated most of the huge releases, preferring the b-list (Jamelia over Beyonce, etc). It's much easier to write a slam than it is to praise something in a creative way.

J'ason D'luv said...

And no one's probably more qualified to write a negative review than someone like you, who has obviously stuck with her for the past twenty years... Although, I've stuck by the Pet Shop Boys for the past twenty years and I'm still raving about Fundamental!! But, at least, unlike Janet, they decided to get back to their roots for their 20th anniversary.

Anyway, I'd like to say that Cassie's a hypocrite! She's saying whatever she wants to suit how it benefits her. "U + Me" is clearly a highly sexual song... that line about "you heard from the others about what I do..." Oh, what, so if it's not oral, then it's what? Something more graphic? That's it... she's getting banterviewed!

Paul said...

yay - a cassie banterview! can't wait. I think that - like Mariah and Whitney - i have really lost interest in Janet's music, which is a shame because up until All For You album it was huge for me. I absolutely was obsessed with rhythm nation and janet, thinking If was the most glorious slutty filthy thing i would ever here. Velvet Rope was also great - but then when Damita Jo came out, i just couldn't get into it and i haven't even tried her new album yet. Which is kinda heartbreaking in its own way :(

PopMuse said...

a perfect review of this new cd. just linked it on popmuse. xo's on fire these days!

Kamikaze Camel said...

Seriously, Rhythm Nation, Janet and Velvet Rope are all classic albums and Control is just behind them. It's a sad sad sorry state of affairs now though.

jack5on said...

i love the album and have not stopped playing it. every track is a winner and are strong enough to be released as singles. the last 4 albums by Janet were weak. but this 100% is not. it's her best work since Rhythm Nation, the ppl that wrote this review probably did not even give it a second play.. it would grow on you second time around. Janet Jackson is back in control! don't believe this silly review or judge the album because of the low UK chart debut.
the charts are fixed anyway.

dont hate said...

everyone's entitled to their own opinon, but lets get realistic here. janet's tha shit and always will be. she's paved the way for a lot of these tired ass girls that are out today. so what she didnt do great in album sales with the damita jo project, but guess what? it went platinum anyway due to the sabotaging attemtps of the wardrobe malfuction. while speaking of damita jo, there were a lot of great songs on the album. and as for the 20 y.o. it's a nice classic revention of ms. jackson. and it's a lot better than that beyonce's 2 weeks crap!

Anonymous said...

Wow so you are a critic! Let's compare your resume with Janet's? By the way who are you? What accomplishments have you made and by the way who gives you the right to judge her? Since we are doing comparisons....why don't we compare you and Janet's bank account? When was the last time you made a monetary contribution or volunteered to a charity or an inner city organization? I am sure NEVER!!!! Not only is she talented, but she gives BACK to the community, unlike your judgmental ass!

xolondon said...

Hey anon, read the last paragraph of my review about who Janet used to be. I doubt you made it that far. I think your head blew off your shoulders by the third paragraph. My judgement is abtuwhat Janet has put out into the world, which I (ME, get it? Not you) find crass, vulgar and lacking in warmth or intelligence.

If Janet gives her time/money to charity - and I bet she does - she should be commended. It's too bad then that she chooses to emphasize the less important parts of her persona, like her "exploding coochie."

When Janet starts producing work that is worthy of her past achievements I will be the first to say so.

Anonymous said...

Xolondon, you started off blasting Janet with harsh remarks. I have been a life long fan of Janet and will continue. No one is perfect…and yes that includes you. Do you hate yourself that much that you can’t say anything positive about someone? Majority of the people here like her and her music. Hey, she's worth over $150 million so I am sure she doesn't give a dam what you think!