Janet Jackson 2005

REVIEW: Janet Jackson albums 2004-09

A retrospective review of Janet Jackson’s “Damita Jo” (2004), “20 Y.O.” (2006) and “Discipline” (2008).

by Mark Keen

The period between 2004 and the “Unbreakable” album in 2015 could in many ways be viewed as Janet’s years in the pop wilderness. This was the result of the controversy stemming from ‘nipple-gate’ in the Super Bowl performance with Justin Timberlake where a ‘wardrobe malfunction’ led to an extreme reaction against Janet. Justin’s career was unscathed by the incident (storm in a teacup), but Janet’s music and videos were seemingly blacklisted for some time.

Although the albums still hit the top five in the US, their impact was much reduced and barely visited the charts in the UK – “Damita Jo” (US No.2, UK No.32), “20 Y.O.” (US No.2, UK. No.63) and “Discipline” (US No.1, UK No.63). Nevertheless there are some great tracks and videos to discover, which makes this period in the wilderness all the more unfortunate. Perhaps the apparent diminished pop sensibility of the albums also had some impact to ears such as mine who preferred the pop focus of the early hits.

“Damita Jo” (2004) had an array of producers, although Jam and Lewis were still involved to a much lesser extent. It still sold three million copies despite the backlash from the Super Bowl incident. The first single was “Just A Little While” which struggled to number 45 in the US although some performances in the UK helped it to number 15.

Two further singles were released from the album, although these were released as a double A-side in the UK “I Want You” was noticeable for an early writing and production credit from Kanye West, and has a lovely, retro Motown sound.

“All Nite (Don’t Stop)” was one of the highlights of the album, but again didn’t trouble the pop charts much due to the backlash in the US. Nevertheless the video is worth checking out.

“20 Y.O.” (2006) was intended as a celebration of 20 years since the release of “Control”, but met with mixed reviews. The involvement of Jermaine Dupri appeared to have changed the intended focus of the album, for which he would be criticised for subsequently. The first single “Call On Me” a duet with Nelly under achieved only hitting 25 in the US, but slightly better in the UK (No. 18), but undoubtedly greater things were expected of it, especially considering the expense of the video. However, Janet was still suffering from the backlash particularly from MTV.

The follow up single “So Excited” also performed badly only hitting number 90 in the US. The video is worth checking out as usual. There are so many writers credited on this song, it perhaps explains why the album appeared so unfocused and a real smorgasbord of sounds.

“Discipline” (2008) did not include any involvement of Jam and Lewis or any writing contribution from Janet, but had a huge number of other contributors. Although the album hit the top spot in the US it would be one of Janet’s least successful albums. The first single “Feedback” was a sizable hot reaching number 19 in the US.

Janet was unhappy with the promotion of the album and left the Island record label as a result. The second single “Rock With U” missed the charts altogether.

In 2009 Janet would return with another greatest hits (“Number Ones/The Best”) which she would also tour. The album would include one new track with “Make Me” which received favourable reviews.

In 2010 Janet released the tender ballad “Nothing” from the soundtrack ‘Why Did I Get Married Too?’. Janet’s acting talents were also getting greater recognition by this point. Although, the song never troubled he charts it is worth checking out. This would also see Janet release a single on A&M records. This was a real return to form and was in the pop vein of classic ballads such as “Again” and “Let’s Wait A While” and does appear to show an influence from brother Michael who had recently died.

Things would then go quiet until the critical comeback with “Unbelievable” (2015) which we will check out next time and bring the story up to date!

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Written by Christopher Smith

So perhaps you’ve read an article or two that I’ve written and wondered “just who is this character?”! Well I thought maybe it would be time to introduce myself and what I’m all about. Well it’s all about the music! Having been born in the late 1970’s I was heavily influenced by my parent’s love of ‘popular’ music and rock and roll of the 1950’s and 60’s. My Mother always said she should of married Elvis and my father was, and is still, in love with Sandie Shaw! But while my Dad’s tastes stopped in about 1967, my Mum carried on loving music throughout the 70’s, 80’s and beyond. My first memory was playing on the floor whilst my Mother was ironing one day with the radio on, and hearing ABBA’s “Super Trouper” dancing my nappy off to it! Maybe that’s where it all went wrong…?! Having been subjected to all and sundry in my infant years, I finally found my feet in the mid-1980’s and began ‘partying’ to the likes of Culture Club, Stevie Wonder(!), Elkie Brooks and Bananarama to name but a few! The year 1987 would have a profound effect on my listening tastes and from thereon in my life would be dominated with buying and listening to music. Any number of outstanding songs were released and listened to that year, most notably “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and “La Isla Bonita”. That Summer my mind was completely taken over with music and sounds I’d never heard before and I was totally taken in by it all. My father would say “whaaar rubbish you got on naaaaao?” (I’m from Norfolk!) but I was hooked. And it continued so for the rest of the decade and the next. At the beginning of 1988 I ‘met’ my true love and the singer I’ve worshipped more than any other artist or group. You may know of her. She’s from Australia…! Aside from pop music, my tastes are many and varied and continues to grow and expand as I ‘mature’ in age. I’ve always been heavily interested in films and in particular the mechanics of film making and of course film music, so scores and subsequently orchestral music takes up a lot of my tastes and collection. 90’s dance and club tunes also takes up much of the space in my head and I’m surprised my brain has stopped shaking from the years of abuse it took being dragged to nightclubs, often three times a week in my 20’s! I find with each year that passes I regress back to my youth and of course the 1980’s. 80’s music dominates and the lust to see as many 80’s acts and singers play live now is insatiable. I’m still getting into the groove as much as every breath I take, but I’m never gonna give up listening to my heart and pumping up the volume, simply because I LOVE MUSIC…any kind of music!

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