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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Janet Jackson - 20 Y.O.
Release Date: September 26
Label: Virgin

There’s talk of a comeback. Although Janet Jackson has been one of the most consistent artists of her genre over the past twenty years, one enormously blown-out-of-proportion mishap unfairly relegated her to blacklist status. That’s America for you. We love to build them up and tear them down. So, two and a half years later Janet’s back again with an attempt to regain the musical status she so quickly lost. Does 20 Y.O. live up to the hype? In a word, no. But don’t panic yet.

While 20 Y.O. does not even come close to Janet’s best work (namely, Rhythm Nation and The Velvet Rope), it is still an above-average slick r&b disc. Gone is much of the pop found on earlier projects like 2001’s All For You. In its place is almost total r&b, most of it in the tepid Jermaine Dupri style. The dull electro throb of Show Me and Miss U exemplify this the best. They’re both alright songs (especially the fiesty rap at the end of Show Me), but they’re missing the Janet spark… that creative, ferocious energy that her earlier work possessed. Much better is Get It Out Me, the sole pop/dance moment on 20 Y.O. or the guitar-fuzz sleaze of This Body, which sounds like something Prince and Paris Hilton could cook up together. The best track on the album turns out to be Take Care, which is easily the strongest of Janet’s classic “baby-making” songs. With a soaring melody reminiscent of earlier ballads like Someday Is Tonight and Come Back To Me, it’s a gorgeous piece of dripping harmonies and soft come-ons.

In between the highlights are midtempo-to-slow jams that, while passable, are nothing really that special. It’s the sound of coasting rather than comeback, and this may be a problem. Throughout her career, Janet’s been at her best when knocking down challenges (depression on The Velvet Rope, independence on Control, political disillusionment on Rhythm Nation). At these times she’s seemed unstoppable…in complete control. Much of 20 Y.O. sounds more like an artist who has succumbed to the pressures of current trends on the radio. It’s time to invite Janet the innovator back. B

Key Tracks: Take Care, Get It Out Me, This Body


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen. you couldn't have said it any better. Janet has also given up on touring.

2:29 PM  

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