2016 or 2017
When I found out that, for the first time since taking Control in 1985, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis weren’t contributing to the new Janet Jackson album, I thought, “This Can’t B Good.” It’s not. The duo; they share production credit, I suspect, even when working solo; are almost as responsible as Janet herself for making her albums good for so long. Leaving them now, as if they’re responsible for her recent decline in sales, is somewhat of a musical abomination.
Initially it doesn’t really sound like much of a loss. The music generally has a cheaper and less dynamic sound; Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis really are geniuses when it comes to composing modern soul music; but their absence isn’t instantly noticeable. Rodney Jerkins, the album’s lead producer just ahead of Jermaine Dupri, has improved a lot since his contribution to brother Michael Jackson’s Invincible project from 2001, but he’s still a poor man’s Jimmy Lewis.
Not that it’s all about beats. The vocals are supposed to be the main attraction on a Janet Jackson album and they are generally the best parts here. She didn’t help compose any of these songs, another first since Control, but her vocals still carry a better-than-average sense of melody. I’m starting to wonder if that has more to do with her voice itself, but this is still her worst album since… well, since I started listening to Janet Jackson albums.
I like The Velvet Rope, All For You, Damita Jo and 20 YO. Discipline initially sounds like those right down to the spoken-word Interludes that envelope nearly every song. Then comes the realization that the songs aren’t exactly up to par. Rock With U is a sexy dance groove that manages to outstrobe the one on Off The Wall, but most of the other songs aren’t good enough to hold-up to the standard she’s either intentionally or incidentally set for herself.
Conceptually it’s still about tender romance and raunchy sex, but this time her libido dabbles into surprising territory. The title song is a fetishistic role play that is masochistic, incestuous and even pedophilic. “Daddy, make me cry,” she whispers, leather-bound and in total submission. She’s begging to be punished, or Disciplined, for the crime of “touching” herself even though he told her not to. I can imagine the Jackson family shrink listening in horror.
my rating = 3 of 5