Thursday, July 03, 2008

Album Review: Janet Jackson - Discipline (3 / 5)


Janet Jackson has always been an iconic figure in the world of pop ever since her breakthrough album, Control in 1986, spawning 5 top 5 hits on the U.S. singles chart --additionally scoring her first #1 ("When I Think Of You"). Her follow-up kicked it up a notch, 1989s politically fueled, Rhythm Nation 1814 is probably the biggest milestone in Jackson's career, securing a whopping 7 top 5 singles in the U.S. Including 4 #1s ("Miss You Much," "Escapade," "Black Cat" and "Love Will Never Do") Just weighing out her brother, Michael who scored 6 top 5s with his masterpiece, Thriller 7 years before.

The 90s introduced a more sexier Janet, all displayed on her fifth self-titled album, janet. adopting a more fresh jaunty R&B venture, which was the result of the hit single, "That's The Way Love Goes." After 4 year break Jackson returned in 1997 with the deeply introspective, The Velvet Rope which displayed Jackson's more darker self --dealing with sensitive topics such as depression and spousal abuse, but in the mists of all the darkness the album did manage to spawn the upbeat dance hit, "Together Again," which became her first #1 in years. 2001s All for You saw a more lighthearted Jackson, combining contemporary pop, edgy rock and smooth R&B.

Admittedly, Jackson some-what lost her touch on her last 2 offerings. Damita Jo was released while all the controversy surrounding Jackson's Superbowl performance with Justin Timberlake was still brewing, and the album failed to bring in any substantial sales or spawn in notable hits. The album wasn't bad, but was a massive decline in quality when compared to her previous efforts. 20 Y.O. saw poorer sales and again, lack of hits --although "Call On Me," with Nelly did become an R&B hit-- and also a continuing decline in quality.

Now we have, Discipline a possible return to form? Not really. After the futuristic introduction which finds Jackson interacting with what I believe is a talking computer named, Kyoko, the album kicks of with, "Feedback" Jackson's biggest hit in almost 7 years --peaking at #19 in the U.S., her highest peak single 2001s "Someone to Call My Lover," reached #3. "Feedback," is dancey pop song with an infectious hook, pulsing with synth and kinetic handclaps, this alone is better than the whole of 20 Y.O. put together. Next up is, "Luv" which supports a more R&B venture --Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins sure knows his stuff, I absolutely love this. The song has a very nice melody, especially during the round-off the chorus, but does suffer from Jackson's almost inaudible vocals. Sometimes the production of the song overshadows what should be the real attraction of the song, the voice.

After one of her infamous (and pointless) interludes is the Jurassic, "Rollercoaster," which is one of the more interesting numbers on here. Whilst it's not bad, it does lack a good melody or catchy hook. Among the best cuts on here is the summery, electro-pop fueled, "Rock With U," which finds Jackson mellowing out behind gushes of synth and a collection of blips and bleeps. The chorus is essentially made up of repeating's of: "ooh ooh ooh," which should be seen as a lazy attempt to bulk up the chorus but in fact does work really well on here.

The album kicks it up a notch on, "2 Nite" a fresh electronic-dance number, supported by Jackson's subtle vocal work --I do love the contrast. It has a killer chorus, obviously drawing some notable 80s influences, definitely one of my favorites on here. The next track, "Can't B Good," is mellow urban-number, supported mainly by an angelic harp only it's very boring, probably the least interesting track on here.

"Never Letchu Go," and "Greatest Ex," are the ballads of the album, both of the same piano and bass nature. Whilst their nice listens, Jackson has made better ballads ("Truth," "Every Time" and "Again") just to name a few. I do love the electronic guitar towards the end of "Never Letchu Go," making a pretty bland ballad more interesting.

Discipline
, really deteriorates from the halfway point. "So Much Better," samples Daft Punk's, "Daftendirekt"and it's actually pretty awful, don't like it all. There's not much to it at all, a random squeaky voice singing the same thing over and over again. "The 1," with Missy Elliot should've been really good, but it sounds like a cheap rip-off Amerie's "One Thing." "What's Ur Name," is a bland and glassy R&B number --sounds like a left over from Damita Jo.

The lowest point of the album arrives on the title track, "Discipline" which finds a horny Jackson murmuring sexual innuendos with layered vocals against a very sultry and haunting backing track. While this has worked for Jackson on previous albums ("All for You's "Would You Mind," Damita Jo's "Warmth," Velvet Rope's "Rope Burn," janet's "Body That Loves You") it just doesn't cut here --I think it's pretty tacky and verging on disgusting now --now I am a fan of sexually pumped songs-- but this just a bit too forced and underwhelming.

The album closes with, "Curtains" a soothing slow jam where Jackson incorporates performance-puns for her funtime in the bedroom. Although the stuff on the second half of the album is pretty underwhelming, I really like this. Jackson's subtle vocal and harmonic murmurs really work on here.

Discipline suffers from the classic first-have-good and second-half-bad case, something that most pop and R&B albums can't seem to fight off, really only a few albums of the genre have managed to avoid this. Whilst I wasn't expecting anything brilliant from this offering, after 20 Y.O. I was hoping for something a bit better than this --luckily it's not a complete disaster, as it does have a handful of good tracks. I just hope Janet finds her mojo on her next album.

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