I still remember buying Janet Jackson‘s first LP. It was actually on February 8th, 1983. The album had been released a few months prior to that. I instantly fell in love with the lush production of Rene Moore and Angela Winbush on “Say You Do”, “You’ll Never Find (A Love Like Mine)”, and “Young Love”. Equally impressive were the Foster Sylvers-produced, very rich and sumptuous “Don’t Mess Up This Good Thing” and “The Magic Is Working”. And it really came as a shock a good one and a half year later when Giorgio Moroder totally ruined her on the second album “Dream Street”. Janet totally reinvented herself by starting to work with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis for her third album “Control”, which, as you know, made history in more ways than one. Hard to believe that 30 years have passed.
But the good thing with Janet’s new album is that she re-connected with the songwriting and production team of Jam & Lewis. It was certainly not intended, but there is a new “When I Think Of You” (the brilliant, but much too short title track opening the album – remix please!), a new “Funny How Time Flies”, and a new “Nasty”.
I’m still not really the rap person but Missy Elliott‘s short “Kitty Kat Meow Meow” on the tech-friendly “Burnitup!” works on this otherwise infectious ditty. The album goes down several roads, like on the Urban A/C Top 40-bouncer “Dammn Baby” which somehow never really comes to a proper start, but remains in the waiting line, even when the bridge starts. The pop magic bliss that is the secret to the Janet/Terry/Jimmy-connection is probably best delivered with the simple, but extremely rewarding, 80s-leaning “The Great Forever”. Sounds already like a hymn!
Some material leans too much towards some Euro disco/house like “Shoulda Known Better”, some of it is simply stunning, like the beautiful ballad “After You Fall” – a perfect excercise in simplicity with its repetitive piano chords and Janet’s heartbreaking vocals. Still somewhat thin, but nevertheless excrutiatingly soft and tender. A milestone. The mid-tempo “Broken Hearts Heal”, where Janet really sounds like her brother Michael, has a very catchy hook and suits her amazingly well. It’s another one of those magic collaborations between her and her partners. But again, it’s too short!
After the light house touch on “Night” and the first single “No Sleep”, still winning over with its irresistible hook and that Jam & Lewis trademark pseudo-handclap backing (bringing back some S.O.S. Band memories), it’s back to some more mid-tempo soul on the, again, much too short “Dream Maker/Euphoria”. I really think she sets new pop standards with the highly infectious “2 Be Loved” and “Take Me Away”, both brimming with overwhelming cuteness and sass. “Lessons Learned” reminds me of “Funny How Time Flies” from “Control”, with its sweet shuffle and grandiose production work which segues into the equally pensive “Black Eagle” (hints of Alexander O’Neal here on this one) with a strong lyric (” the stereotypical things are the worst”).
Janet goes Motown on the raucous last track of her fabulous new album which is highly enjoyable, and cries out for remix work! As you are well aware, she already started her world tour which will bring her to Europe next spring. She plays Berlin, for example, on April 18th.